Teacher Training: Ready or Not, Hang on for the Ride!
Up until now I have simply shared with you my early jorney, only hinting at any of my underlying viewpoints. If you read any of the other posts (thank you) my first expressed view might be pu in perspective.
Teacher Training is absutely crucial to creating capable, quality educators. Most of us have heard how important it is to a student’s success to have a quality teacher and that having back to back years with a “bad” teacher can be devastating to a student. Why then do we think it is sufficient to throw teachers into the mix with only a few weeks of running a classroom? Teacher observations and student teaching are great ways to give teachers exposure to the classroom environment. Unfortunately as most teachers and administrators would agree, first year teachers are often ill equipped to handle the high demand of running a classroom.
In my first three years in education I had the good fortune of working in several capacities within my school. Despite my frustration at not getting my own classroom, I was able to spend a great deal of my first three years working as an aide in inclusion classrooms. Unlike student teaching, being a classroom aide gives you a unique perspective. There is one major thing that many first year teachers struggle with as much as anything, planning out their year. One skill that separates great teachers from the rest is the ability to plan. Not simply planning their day or their week, but developing a vision of the student growth throughout the year. Not only is it impossible to understand this skill through student teaching, but through any typical teacher preparation program. Getting the chance to spend the year watching and collaborating with a Master Teacher gives a young teacher a glimpse at how this skill works in practice. While being present for an entire year, a young teacher can add so many tricks to their tool bag. They can also get a great view of how teachers vary their techniques throughout the year. In a short sample, young teachers cannot always see how a trick or strategy may only work fir a short while.
In my first year, I faced a class that will always be one of my favorite groups yet they were a tremendous challenge. Despite the difficult combination of personalities the group came together and the experience was great. If not for the huge collection of tools and experiences that I had gained from my years as an aide, that year could have made me question my ability and my choice to teach. Instead it was a calidating experience that encouraged me and kindled in me a belief that I could teach anything to anyone.
The bottom line here is that the stakes are too high to leave our newest teachers underprepared. No matter what, there will be no substitute for ding in your classroom and working through your first year, but giving teachers the opportunity to gain the tools they will need and the ability to envision a long term plan is crucial to creating successful teachers. Interning/aiding for a full year is a far better source of learning than subbing or even traditional teacher preparation programs. I am not discounting the value of learning to teach, but mere heralding the value and need for quality, hands on experience that will enable teachers to be more prepared to meet the challenges they will face upon being thrown into teaching. It seems unfair to let someone “sink or swim” if you’ve never let them in the water.