New Teachers

The Future of Teacher Prep Programs, Part Two

August 26, 2010

In last week's post, part one, I fantasized about what a credential program might look like years down the line. Now I'm going to take a look at the staff, differentiating the credential, and curriculum.

(Just another brief note: this is my brainstorm, backed up with nothing more than my wishes. I don't know how to fund it, but there are problems with our current credential programs, and to solve them first takes dreaming).

The Staff

Once a candidate is accepted into a teacher prep program, he or she will find that every classroom houses a current practitioner; an educator that is still a part-time classroom teacher heads every class. The staff must be made up of teachers who straddle both worlds, that of the classroom teacher and the educator of teachers.

In the future, classroom teachers can apply to be master teachers in prep programs as a hybrid teacher career path. Teachers who are on such paths are actually salaried by the prep program but receive their health insurance through the school district as a means to split the compensation for the teacher and their contribution to both institutions. It is vital to the prep program that their teachers be working classroom teachers, and it is a bragging right to a district to have a certain number of master teachers in their classrooms.

The Differentiated Credential

We need to indicate that there are those who graduate with a credential and those who graduate with honors in education. The prep programs of tomorrow award a Chiron Award to graduating candidates of great potential. Think about Chiron, the centaur, who taught Jason, Heracles, Ajax, and Percy Jackson. This mythical teacher represented all things wise, kind, and equitable, and his ability to teach allowed him to become immortal earning him a place in the constellations.

This award has some weight for potential future employers. Schools staffed with multiple Chiron Award recipients are rare, but the winners are sought after.

In the teacher prep programs of the future, the credentials are as differentiated as the candidates.

The Curriculum

Approximately one year of seat time, with waiver opportunities possibly shortening this portion of the program.

Each class is structured to address how it applies to any or all of the three Cs (Content, Communication, and Character). By the end, each Master Teacher is asked to evaluate the candidate on a rubric based on all of three categories to determine if that candidate will move ahead to the apprenticeship portion of the program. The Intro to Collaboration and Nuts and Bolts classes can be waived based on the specifics of a Professional Evidence Portfolio (see part one).

Class #1: History of Teaching

This class is about modeling practice through the study of past great teachers, reminding candidates of the teacher they are striving to be. This class studies the practice of some of the greatest educators in history, both from the United States and abroad, from literature, and from the candidates' own pasts.

Class #2: Scenario Management

This class includes actual scenarios submitted by teachers to aid in quick problem-solving and discussion prompts. This allows students to brainstorm together while also giving candidates a real glimpse into the classroom window.

Class #3: Nuts and Bolts

This class covers the basic logistics of daily teaching life. It will deconstruct the pacing of a teacher's lessons, days, weeks, months, and year. What is the rhythm of a classroom? How many decisions does a teacher make in a five-minute period? How does a teacher read a contract or a pay stub? How does a new teacher design a student-engaging classroom? How does one prepare for a substitute teacher?

Class #4: Intro to Collaboration

This class will not only discuss the importance of collaboration in education, it will model it. It will group candidates by grade or subject level, allowing them to work in cohorts during this class to supplement lessons from popular textbooks. Therefore, the candidate will leave with a binder of lessons already designed with the help and creativity of others. This class can't be about collaboration; it must use collaboration to help each candidate.

Class #5: Intro to Creating Assessments

This class will cover the fundamentals of assessments. What makes a good and fair assessment? What are the differences between standardized and differentiated assessments?

Class #6: Grading Practices

This class demystifies the grading process: What kinds of rubrics exist and how can they be used better and more formatively? What is the purpose of grading, and how can a candidate create a system that helps students? How can a teacher work with or develop a grading system that does not become the focus of their practice?

Class #7: Intro to Reflection

This class is conducted simultaneously with the student teaching apprenticeship two-year program. The candidates must reflect on each lesson they conduct and observe, its pros and cons. They can choose the method of their reflection, whether it be blog, index card, journal, or voice memo, in the hopes that one day they will allow options for their future students.

Class #8: Teaching Metacognition

Many teachers don't realize that the IQ can change. This is a powerful concept. How can teachers teach how to think? What are the methods of teaching the brain to embed information more effectively? This class will use brain research to help candidates understand how the brain works and learns at different stages in life and what lessons we can develop to address those stages.

Class #9: Project-Based Learning

Teaching with project-based learning is one way for students to solve real life problems and apply the lessons of the classroom to life outside of school. This class will walk a teacher through the methods of PBL by having them go through the process.

Class #10: Diversity in Learning and Teaching

What are multiple intelligences and learning styles? What is a candidate's learning style, and how can they teach to other styles? Does differentiation really mean we lose all standardization? Our purpose is to teach ALL students; this class introduces candidates to many of the thinkers he or she may encounter.

What's Next?

Next week, my third and final post in this series on Future Teacher Prep Programs will cover:

The Student Teacher Apprenticeship Program

Relationships between Districts and Teacher Prep Programs

Overall Graduation Requirements

Looking at these categories, the curriculum, and ways to differentiate the teacher credential, what is your fantasy for the future of teacher prep programs? We look forward to your ideas and thoughts on this topic!

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