George Lucas Educational Foundation

Well...What do you know?

Well...What do you know?

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I spent some time teaching at a Faculty of Education here in Toronto and there was always a discussion among students (and some faculty members) as to whether or not they were prepared to enter full time practice after just one year of formal preparation. Many felt that more in-class practice was needed. Others thought that more "theory-based" instruction would be better. So, let me throw out a couple of questions. What aspects of teaching did you feel most prepared for when you graduated from your teacher education program? If you were to go back to your faculty professors and tell them about one area of practice that, perhaps, needed a little more attention, what would it be? Stephen

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

I just came across a great (and pretty funny) blog post by Steve J. Moore on how new teachers are treated in schools.

Can any of you relate? Which model does your school support: Bambi or There will be Blood?

He raises some interesting questions: Where will you be in five years? What will you say to new teachers in ten years?

Steve J. Moore's picture
Steve J. Moore
I'm a writing teacher in Kansas City

Thanks Elana for the blog mention, I've gotten great feedback on that post thanks to the educator community on Twitter. As a new teacher, having these kinds of conversations is so valuable and encouraging.

I know if I could go back to my education department and share something with them, it would have to do with exposure to real classrooms. Chemistry majors spend hours and hours in the lab each week during their undergraduate programs. They start with maybe 2-4 hours as freshman, but by the time they are juniors and seniors it is usually between 8-12 hours of direct lab experience weekly.

How much time did I spend in the classroom before student teaching? 40 hours. That's as much time as a freshman chemistry major spends in lab before the end of the first semester.

What's wrong with that picture?

Cheska Lorena's picture
Cheska Lorena
Science Teacher from the Capital District Region, New York

I second Mr. Moore's comment: there has to be more exposure to classrooms--not observing, but teaching!--for pre-service teachers. I graduated this spring, and I can't tell you how many times I often felt frustrated with my undergraduate program... Personally I think theory classes are great, but what is it's purpose if it cannot be applied in real settings? IMHO, you learn from experience and can only watch and observe so much.

I am lucky that I had 2 practicums and a student teaching experience that lasted 5 months... but I still didn't feel that was enough. I am glad though that the district had changed its model to a collaborative one this year for the new influx of preservice teachers... practicum 1 and 2 students are assigned to the same class year long, and follow the class as they progress together through the grades. Preservice teachers co-teach with mentors and cooperative teachers. They receive more and more exposure as they go from Pract 1 to Pract 2 to Student Teaching, where they take over the class completely for the last year. Too bad they didn't switch to that model when I was still in the program!

Steve J. Moore's picture
Steve J. Moore
I'm a writing teacher in Kansas City

Your program sounds very similar to the one I went through. I had two practicums, but they were separate and disconnected. There was no connection of my observation to the college course and I was only required to "teach" once.

It's strange to me that they defined when we should "teach" as though there is a time when a pre-service teacher shouldn't be engaging students.

It was even worse when I got to student teaching. Not only did they have separations between "teaching" and "contact" time but I had to quantify it in triplicate as though I was monitoring a cancer patient's IV flow and hear trate: neither of which helped me to become a better teacher before graduating.

My lesson plans were combed over for their structure, format, adherence to vague guidelines, and (I swear) penmanship. What was worse than that was my university's failed attempt at using a portfolio (an idea which I like very much) in conjunction.

What ended up taking place as instruction through the portfolio was tantamount to telling a marathon runner which color of laces her shoes should have. I nearly failed to complete the requirements because I had named some files wrong in my portfolio (not file paths, simply file names) days before commencement. It was a ludicrous antediluvian system that I am still angry about (it's not obvious is it?).

Emily Holbrook's picture
Emily Holbrook
Elementary teacher of 6-7 year olds in Ohio

In my undergrad education I would have liked more information on opening and closing a classroom. We spent a lot of time on learning how to teach the standards and how to build relationships with our students. But as far as how to handle those first few fragile weeks in the classroom, I am lost on. As well as how to handle letting them go, I am not sure how this will go in May.

Kimberly Whybrew's picture

I was pretty lucky. I did a transition to teaching program and we spent the first two weeks in a classroom to learn how the start goes. We also had a couple of other practicums in addition to student teaching. It was wonderful experience. We also had all the other "hoops" to jump through though. What really upsets me is the new focus on content area for new teachers and less on knowing how to teach. You can know the content backwards and forwards and if you can't teach it won't matter. I think the only things I really needed more info on were RTI and data tracking. These were still pretty new ideas at the time though.

Mattr's picture
Secondary Science Teacher Candidate, currently completing MAT program

Id second the suggestion for more practical classroom time prior to student teaching as well as data tracking. Another aspect that is particularly challenging for me as an emerging teacher is navigating all of the possible resources to tap into for lesson material. As odd as it sounds, guidance and strategies for appropriating lesson plans/activities/lesson materials would be beneficial especially given the plethora of options out there. It is pretty easy to get lost searching for something solid to use in the classroom...

Lisa Dabbs's picture
Lisa Dabbs
Educational Consultant. Author. Speaker. Blogger.

I agree @Mattr Not enough time is given to pre-service teacher to experience the real classroom setting these days.
When I did my student teaching it was a good long semester filled with observations, then another with actual practicum in the classroom under a Mentor Teacher. Was so helpful to have that time...
The lack of time is why I'm firmly convinced of the role social media can play to support and fill the gap missed by not enough prac. Or what about letting pre-service teachers Skype into classrooms around the world to be that "teacher behind the glass" if you will. They could even engage with a classroom by doing read alouds or simple lessons. Could be very helpful! Thoughts?

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