Monday, November 21, 2005

If I were the dean...

First, and this may seem minor, but I don't think it is, make sure your profs are walking the walk. They should be practicing the innovative teaching techniques that the school is advocating. Your students - future teachers - should be immersed in the kind of learning experience that you hope they will provide for their students. And by the way, I'm talking about ALL professors here - history & philosophy of ed, stats, you name it, not just the methods profs. Of course, professors should adjust the teaching methods to be age appropriate - no one likes to be taught "like you were a kid" - but at the same time, grad school does not have to mean lecture + section all the time.

Second, and again, this may seem minor but it is so symptomatic of some of the larger issues in education today, EVERY prof must be "in touch" with what schools are like today, and not just schmancy suburban schools. When I got my master's at Teachers College, I was horrified to find that I could make my professors' mouths drop open every single class just by mentioning something that had happened in my school that day - things that I had come to view as normal for the NYC public school system. It was unacceptable that the professors in a school located so close to Harlem could be so completely out of touch with the realities of our own schools.

Third, your students need to spend lots of time in classrooms (observing/teaching) or watching teaching through multimedia, right from the start of their program. Every student ought to be exposed to a wide variety of classroom settings so that they know the range of what is out there and how different teachers and schools handle similar situations. I wonder if you could film real-life classroom situations and then get a few different classroom teachers to comment on how they would have handled the situation - providing a diversity of approaches and raising ethical and pedagogical issues. There are many ways to be a good teacher, and many interesting questions to be explored.

Fourth, demand better as far as content knowledge is concerned! Teachers should have a major or double-major in something other than education. We need to be experts in both pedagogy and our discipline. Elementary school teachers, too! (By the way, I think you're on the right track with this article).

Fifth, train your teachers to reflect on their work, always, deeply. A lot of learning is going to happen on the job, no matter how well you prepare your teachers. In the end, the ones who make it are the ones who hold themselves to the highest standard, who look critically at their own work and strive to improve it, day in and day out.

Sixth, I found myself planning lots of "pie-in-the-sky" units during my time at TC. In the end, good teaching combines ambitious projects with a lot of rigorous basics. I wish I'd spent more time learning how to teach the basics, the stuff that provides the foundation on which I can build more ambitious projects. Enough articles on teachers who had their students plan community gardens, more about how they taught momentum, variables, graphing, etc.

Seventh, don't neglect assessment. How many times do your students get to look at real student work and think about how to sum it all up in some kind of grade/mark? We made tons of rubrics at TC, but we never used them, so aside from our prof telling us whether they were good or bad, we had no feedback.

Oh, I don't know. This all seems kind of basic to me, so I would imagine your school probably already does these things. On the other hand, many of my experiences with ed classes have been frustrating, so maybe not. Overall, the thing that will help the rest of us the most is if you can communicate to your students a sense of high professional and personal standards, so that they become the kind of people who will elevate the status of teaching in our society. Good luck!

16 Comments:

Blogger soucouyant said...

Thanks for this, Ms. Frizz! I hope they see it! I have a student teacher from Brooklyn College right now and her professors need to read your post. I do have to say that my classes at NYU's Fellows track did a lot of what you said: we learned using peer teaching things like jigsaws, all our assessments were performance based, and our teacher made used multimedia - and so did we. It really makes a difference not to just read about those things, but to experience them as a learner. It helped a lot that most of our teachers were master teachers from the NYC public schools -- they knew exactly what we were going through!

Thanks for the good word.

8:09 PM  
Blogger posthipchick said...

I can't wait until you ARE a dean and implement all of these ideas. You are totally ready.

Honestly, after 1.5 years of 12 units per semester, I'd rather just get lectured than have to do one more activity for 3rd graders. Why california has middle school teachers in the elementary credentialing program remains a mystery to me. My entire program is based towards k-6. It is such a complete waste of time.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said my friend. I need to e-mail your letter to the school I attended to get my degrees.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Lady Strathconn said...

This was a great blog. I can totally relate to everything you say. Especially about learning to teach the everyday stuff. I wish I had be taught how to write lesson plans. Not that crap with state standards, and objectives and all that crap, but how do I write lesson plans that someone else can follow if I am absent? How do I plan ahead?

We spent a lot of time in a classroom, but I felt much of it was wasted. We were instucted on things to look for or take notes on, we didn't participate in many of the classes. In VA we were required to do 7 weeks in 4,5, or 6 and 7 in 1, 2, or 3. I would have rather done 13 weeks in one grade with one teacher. I think I would have learned a great deal more, and felt more prepared if I had been 13 weeks in my second grade placement, and not had to divide my time.

Of course, I went directly into grade school and then got a job as at tech specialist in an elementary school. So what do I know from classroom teaching?

9:50 PM  
Blogger Jenny D. said...

This speaks quite directly to the issues at hand. Really. I can't wait to show it off. Thanks.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Ms. Sigh Ants said...

A very nice post. I will say that there are some colleges that are trying to make these changes. I'm currently in a fast-trak (don't get scared yet!) MAT (masters of arts in teacher) for secondary science education program. It is 15 months, 2 summers and 2 semesters.

My first summer I spent 20 hours in the classroom, this fall I am spending a minimum of 40 hours in the classroom and in the spring I student teach. These practicum experiences are not just observations but also involve teaching small lessons or portions of the class period. We spend a lot of our time discussing the issues you pointed out. The courses I am taking also focus a lot on how students learn and how to effectively teach since, including a class on the nature of science.

Another push of my program is professional development. We are required to attend one science teaching conference and encouraged to attend regional and national NSTA conferences or other conferences for professional organizations.

I hope this doesn't sound as harsh as I'm feeling it does. I just wanted to point out, that although small, there are some changes happening in some teacher ed programs.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish we could use our PD Mondays, or what remains of them, to not only review and assess student work, but plan (or adjust our plans) for the months ahead.

Our PD Mondays are not meeting the needs of teachers and students.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Tep said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Tep said...

Can I ask what program you were in at TC? I went to an info session last week for the administration program, and they kept talking about how they were well versed in adult learning theory and how they tried to make everything they did applicable in some way.

I figured they weren't being completely honest, but at least they recognized a common complaint and were trying to address it.

There was nothing worse that getting my degree in early childhood--at one of the top early childhood schools in the country--and having to listen to professors *lecture* over and over about the importance of hands-on learning in authentic environments.

8:16 PM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

I was in Secondary Science Ed. in the Math, Science & Tech department. Great people, but I feel like the dept. and maybe all of TC was extremely disorganized. Plus, they didn't take very good care of their inservice, part-time students. I knew going in that I was unlikely to feel really included in the student community, thanks to my part-time status, but I felt drastically out-of-the-loop a little too often for my tastes.

8:57 PM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

I think TC really varies by dept., by the way. Best thing to do is to find some students to talk to.

8:58 PM  
Blogger EdWonk said...

We've linked this post as an "Editors's Choice" at the 42nd midway of The Carnival Of Education.

10:20 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Oh boy, oh boy. This was a great post.

I was at Lehman, 2ary math ed, and much of this stuff, especially the out-of-touch-ness, was not as bad, but I still think 5 or 6 of your 7 points would apply.

Someone (some teacher) should write more about these things.

(btw, I read that AFT magazine cover to cover. It always makes me think, engages me in other content areas, and in my area, mathematics, I know the articles are high qulaitya nd the conclusions are generally sound)

(Your aside about elementary teachers in #4 is such a can of worms. You are right, but some people choose K-5 because they can't do math... what a mess)

9:03 AM  
Blogger Late Nighter said...

I agree with it all. Every word. I am in a top "education" university and they are still lacking in practical application. Sure, they lecture us on all the newest teaching trends and what are the "best" or "most effective" methods, but I am never given a chance to apply them until my last semester. I don't know how I'm supposed to remember all of this without actually learning what works best based on my experiance.

4:03 PM  
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