New Teachers

The Future of Teacher Prep Programs, Part Three

September 2, 2010

What began as mere musings, became a fully fleshed fantasy for what a teacher prep program of the future looks like. It all began in part one of this series of posts. It continued in part two, and now it concludes here.

Remember, this is a fantasy; just as the future of science sometimes begins in science-fiction, so does the future of education begin in education-fiction.

Student Teaching Apprenticeship Program

This will be two years of a paid, on-site apprenticeship program. Candidates need to have more time in the classroom with mentor teachers, co-teaching, as a means to learn what it is to have their own classroom. These mentor teachers should be given an appropriate salary to take on the apprentices of our profession. In turn, the candidates work closely with certain selected students in the class, giving additional support to targeted kids.

Candidates are given the responsibility to keep track of those few students' data and can monitor their progress. Schools are in desperate need for smaller class sizes and more individualized attention for remedial students. Don't pull those kids out, but rather, give them some additional support from these apprentice teachers. This is not in lieu of the mentor teacher's attention, but is in addition to.

The two years of co-teaching is a paid position with a salary commensurate of apprentice-appropriate pay. It is not the district that pays the candidate. The candidate is paid out of monies supplied by both the teacher prep program and the government. It is not, therefore, in the best interest of the teacher prep program to pass everyone onto the student teaching round as it is now. In fact, as the process continues, there should be gates to go through to ensure that only the educators of highest quality ultimately receive the credential.

During the apprenticeship, the candidate works closely with multiple mentor teachers (including an English language development teacher, special ed teacher, and content appropriate teacher), observing and learning.

Meanwhile, in addition to attending the Intro to Reflection (see part two) class the candidate must also attend simultaneous classes provided by the district on the demographic, cultures, and challenges that are specific to that district.

Originally, the teacher prep programs taught these classes in the form of watered down, overall, nonspecific classes on multiculturalism. Pass the funds used to teach these generic courses to the districts themselves. The districts, therefore, educate the new candidates about the groups that are directly reflected in the new hires' classrooms, and it is important for the district to be providing their knowledge and support based on the demographics of their own community.

Relationships between Districts and Teacher Prep Programs

Teacher preparation programs should work in close affiliation with a particular school or district. The program knows the mentor teachers and the mentor teachers can reach out to the master teachers in the teacher preparation program. It behooves both parties to make the relationship work.

Like many "teaching hospitals," there will be more schools known as "teaching schools." Families seek after these schools because it means smaller student-to-educator ratios and because presumably, those in the classroom are the best quality, eager to be there and learn the best teaching practices from the mentor teachers who represent the best of their profession.

Overall Graduation Requirements

The candidate's ultimate graduation from the teacher prep program is comprised of the following:

  • Lesson portfolio
  • Digital resume including taped lessons to show potential employers
  • Content specific testing
  • Recommendations from the master teachers from the classroom program
  • Recommendations from the mentor teachers from the apprenticeship program
  • Satisfactory observation evaluations from a supervisor from the prep program and well as a district observer

If a candidate passes with 3/4 of those at the table satisfied with his or her performance (assessed over a period of time), then they can be awarded a credential. A candidate with the unanimous vote of approval receives special recognition that can be used like an additional badge of accomplishment, ranking them higher than other graduating candidates.

And Beyond

Just as there is differentiation in our own classes, there should be tiers of allowance for new teachers, like keys to different access of autonomy. Some new teachers will be able to take things on quickly; others will need more scaffolding and time. Some new teachers will climb quickly up the salary scale towards the golden chalice of tenure by showing facility in the three Cs (content, communication, and character), while others will be given more guidance and mentoring for as long as growth is seen.

With experience and expertise come more responsibilities. After all, it makes no sense to give the new teacher a harder job when he or she is just learning the job. No, there is a trade off for tenure and more pay: more effort and more contribution to the school community.

Does this sound subjective? You bet. But equity isn't fair to our clients (students) if every teacher is granted the same access to autonomy and reward at the same time regardless of readiness. And yes, you also read right: that there is a salary scale to climb. After all, if a teacher busts her butt then she should be paid as a butt-buster, but if a teacher does just fine (no more or no less) it doesn't need to be job threatening, it just can't mean automatic reward.

Things must change at many levels. Credential program quality must improve. Funding sources must shift. Different paths must exist to reach a credential. Teachers must once again believe that they are each worthy of their own Chiron Award (see part two) and all it represents. Only then will the quality of teachers improve. Only then will our students improve.

What does your fantasy future teacher prep program look like?

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