George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Sandra Feldman: A View on Teacher Preparation

September 1, 2001

Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), discusses what it takes to become a skillful teacher.

1. What should a teacher know and be able to do in the classroom?

To have a really skillful teacher who knows what to do in the classroom you need, first of all, someone who's totally committed to teaching and who loves children. I don't think you can be a really good teacher without giving your entire heart to the children. And then you have to be very well-educated. We like teachers to have a degree in a subject matter and have a deep knowledge of content and also to have a deep knowledge of how to impart that content to children.

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2. What role do teachers play in supporting students' social and emotional development?

Everyone says you're part parent, you're part psychologist, you're part social worker, you're part big sister, big brother, and friend, and you really have to give your heart to kids, and you have to be open to their needs. And teachers are, in general. Teachers are people who love children or they couldn't do that work.

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3. Why is field experience so valuable?

Watching an experienced master teacher work with those children, seeing how the children react, and seeing how the teacher adjusts and strategizes in developing her strategies with each child and with the group of children -- it's totally invaluable. I mean, you can't just imagine this. You have to see it at work. It's the difference between, you know, abstractly reading about how a surgeon does his work and actually watching a surgeon, and then maybe doing some of that surgery under the watchful eye of the surgeon.

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4. What is the value of technology in teaching and learning?

I have seen marvelous use of technology where children can enter worlds that they would otherwise have no way of encountering.They could go to the North Pole, they could walk across a glacier, they could sit with a tribe in the desert and learn their ways. But they also need to be exposed to it by teachers who are comfortable with the technology. And unfortunately, we still don't have enough teacher training in the area of technology. I think it's an area in which we really need to move forward much more.

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