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Follow-Up: Recommendations for a Fairytale Ending

Megan Allen

In my last post, I shared a wish list for teacher-preparation programs, asking the "mirror, mirror, on the wall." The truth is, we can't wait for the mirror on the wall—we must act now. To that end, I'm working as Educator in Residence at the University of Central Florida this year, and I'm advocating publicly for specific changes to teacher preparation.

We must think beyond the typical student-teaching requirement of only one semester. We must embrace residency models. Preservice teachers must have time to roll up their sleeves and practice the pedagogy that they've learned about, with a strong mentor teacher supporting them. Note: Let's start talking about mentor teachers rather than supervising teachers ... After all, the role is not just to watch over an intern, but to guide a young teacher in identifying and practicing effective classroom strategies, as mentioned by Ilana Garon.

We need a match.com-type system for pairing mentors and preservice teachers. For their work together to be effective, mentors and preservice teacher must develop strong relationships, based on trust. I'm picturing a match.com type profile match-up to increase the odds of successful placements and ensure the mentor and mentee have chemistry. And we must carefully select our mentor teachers and provide them with thorough training and support, realizing that an effective teacher doesn't always equate to an effective mentor.

We must continue to offer support after pulling the ripcord. Once teachers take on their own classrooms, let's not just sit back and watch, hoping they land on their feet. We must provide ample, effective support during the first few years. Universities and districts: I'm talking to you! Let's get creative about some hybrid roles to offer this support ...

We must regulate alternative routes to the classroom. This golden thread has been woven throughout the blogs on Teaching Ahead. I was floored this week to learn there are over 200 ways to become a teacher in this country ... 200! We need to ensure that all of these routes to teaching are adequately—scratch that, effectively!—preparing educators. Every student deserves to have an effective teacher, in every classroom, every day.

We need to get creative with recruitment. Universities, listen up! We need to be more selective with our recruits (gasp) and more ambitious with our recruitment. Singapore has interviews to ensure that candidates have the right aptitude for the classroom. Beyond just raising GPAs and looking at SAT scores, we need to make sure our candidates have qualities such as passion and perseverance to thrive in classrooms. And to make education alluring, we'll need some policymakers to help ...

Lastly, we need to take on retention as a critical issue. Policymakers, pay attention! Many top-performing countries that consistently outperform the U.S. on PISA had to create regulations that increased teacher pay and/or find ways to elevate reverence in the teaching profession. Better working conditions. Multiple leadership paths. Competitive pay. That takes a forward thinking and proactive government. I challenge you to take the plunge!

Megan Allen, a National Board-certified teacher, was the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year. She has taught for seven years, all at Title 1 schools, and now serves as the educator-in-residence at the University of Central Florida.

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