We share evidence-based K-12 learning strategies that empower you to improve education.
I first taught high school science. My teacher preparation courses other than a science methods course were pretty much worthless. What helped me most with teaching - I was a college lab instructor. Everything was structured for me. This gave me confidence, a stronger knowledge base, and lots of ready to use hands on activities. This lab instructor experience would probable not be useful in elementary school, but it was a life saver in high school. There is nothing like teaching to make you a better teacher.
I finished my degree and then determined that I wanted to teach. I was prepared through university course work and a semester's internship. Today teachers are given practicums each semester of their program, and they are given multiple teacher opportunities before student teaching or internship. So, many teachers get into the field, feel confounded by the ammount of gotcha games played on new teachers, even schools with good mentoring will still have gotcha people. Mentoring is another aspect that was not given to us oldsters.
The thing that would keep teachers in teaching is the one thing buerocracies hate. Teachers as private practioners of education. If the powers that be want teachers to leave the unions it seems that they want things to stay the way they are only with superintendants and principals with more power. That is a silly notion. Teachers come and go because of a lot of factors: Money. personal power and feelings of accomplishment are just a few of the issues.
I never felt a need for lots of money and as my family grew my longivity and graduate degrees started to increase my income. I have learned that power that is me is all that is needed. Power from outside of me is illusion. I have been lucky to have had a number of kids write me over the years to thank me for what I taught them. I have children of my own who have surprised and delighted me in that they think well of old teachers. Some of us are a little short with some kids, so we make enemies. Unwitting most of the time. Some of those kids grow to high status jobs. So be it.
I was academically well prepared, but I did not learn anything helpful about interfacing with parents or administrators.
I did not feel prepared with my program work but student teaching was literally baptism by fire. That's where I learned everything - how to lead a discussion, how much "face time" to give kids, when not to give homework, how to set up a fair rubric, when and if to call parents, how to talk to sixteen year olds, what disadvantage really means. My college program was old fashioned book learnin', not that there is anything wrong with that(I teach AP!)but it was pointless until we did it for real.
As a 30+ years sp. ed. teacher, college courses in no way prepared me for what I was to encounter in the classroom. Most of what I use today was gained through experience, workshops and my own reading. My studet teaching pepared me for what not to do in a Special Ed. classroom. My critic teacher was probably the worst teacher I had ever seen and I tried to deviate from what she wanted me to do because I felt so sorry for the students. They were bored to tears.
Anyone going into teaching now is definitely not doing it for the money, so they must feel they can make a difference. Knowledge in subject matter is a must but the practical aspect in the classroom is the best preparation. The more hands-on experience the better.
In reply to Alan Bronstein;
I agree with you. That seems to be the pattern I adopted. There is a lot to be said about experience, and every year that goes by, I realize how my eyes see situations differently, and how an activity that was great a few years ago, is in dire need of change today.
The key to improvement and success for teachers is to constantly reassess activities, projects, teaching methods they have adopted. We should never be content with how things are. In order to achieve more, we need to have time to reflect and improve our "toolkit". Our day doesn't allow for much thought. One preparation hour for 5 courses a day.... who can actually achieve quality with 10 minutes of preparation per class?
I didn't rely on the courses I had in education. Some of them provided some useful pointers, but, for the most part, I simply modeled my style after the best teachers I had as I went through school . . . and then augmented that with what I observed as I taught and what I picked up in "teacher training teacher" workshops.
I did not begin a formal teacher preparation program until my second year in the classroom. Because of this I was ineligible for any support or mentorship in that first year - when I really needed it. I then enrolled in an internship program to complete my teacher preparation while I continued teaching. This enabled me to connect my studies with what was really going on in my classroom, but I still found that the course work did not really provide what I needed to become a better teacher. For example, I already knew that I needed to differentiate, but received limited support in creating and managing differentiated instruction in the classroom.
I am a veteran in my 43rd year as an educator. My career has led me to many places and many schools. My preparation as an elementary teacher was adequate in all areas but the teaching of reading. I prepared to teach in the middle grades and have never been a classroom teacher below grade three. I had a semester of observation during my junior year and 8 weeks of practice during my last semester of college. In addition, my mother was an elementary teacher, and I had helped in a program in high school like Future Teachers which was not available at the time in my school. I also had done babysitting since the age of 12. All of these combined experiences plus much reading and studying on my own have made me the educator I am today.
My university library courses helped me somewhat to be a school librarian during my last 22 years, but I felt more inadequate as a beginner in that area than for the preparation for classroom teaching.
I agree that teachers of today need more time for mentoring. I think more of them would stick with it. They need some shadowing time early in their education in order to be sure it is truly what they want to do. I was fortunate that my mom was a teacher, and I had her experience and mentoring to help me. I also knew about her trials and successes before I went to college, so I had her to shadow even though I was not in her classroom.
My teacher preparation in college was adequate in that we were encouraged to volunteer, observe and teach lessons in classrooms throughout the program. The true on-the-job experiences were fully realized in my own classroom, however. Under the guidance of the principal and teachers at my first school is where the real learning began. They were the ones who gave me the hands-on mentoring that allowed me to become a confident teacher. Mentoring is essential to ensure success for beginning teachers.