by James Kobialka
Teaching is not a profession which can be taught through lectures and reports. Just as doctors must be trained in hospitals, in practices, so must teachers be trained in classrooms in what is called the clinical model of teacher preparation.
I remember student teachers coming into my high school class. They would sit at the back of the class, scribbling in notebooks. After two weeks of this, they’d teach one lesson and disappear, presumably off to present a signed form and get a degree.
I finished my own teaching degree in May of 2011. I spent well over 300 hours teaching. I designed lessons, units, and curricula. I watched others teach. I videotaped classes; I wrote reflections; I received critiques; I did research; I earned my degree with ink and tears, as did the rest of my cohort.
I feel privileged to have been taught by great teachers. Every step of the way I was supported and challenged.
Not everyone made it. Some quit. They couldn’t hack the long hours and the stress of teaching. While I feel for them, I also am thankful. Their leaving did not hurt students – if they had burned out in their first year of teaching, it would be a different story.
Those of us who graduated did so knowing who we were – not as people, but as educators. We had a feel for our classroom persona, our strengths and weaknesses, our goals.
A lot of eyes are turning towards teacher preparation right now. 25 state school chiefs recently agreed to “take action” towards renovating their states’ teacher licensure and preparation programs.
Their recent report identified “Licensure” as a main area to change. I hope they will focus on the clinical model of teacher preparation that mimics how doctors are trained.
The state chiefs aren’t the only people asking these questions. How do we train good teachers? How do we know whether a first-year teacher will have a high- or low- performing classroom? How do we train what TNTP called the “irreplaceables”?
Here are your answers:
Stop hiring people who worked in industry for fifteen years and think that qualifies them to teach high schoolers.
Stop hiring subs who have been in the system for ten years but never designed their own lesson.
Stop hiring people who majored in Education but have never stood in front of a class.
Call up Clark University, my alma mater. Call up the Urban Teacher Residency United. Call up any of a long list of schools. . Ask them which of their recent graduates need a job – because many of us still do.
Start hiring people with classroom experience. Start hiring people with portfolios, with lessons, who can show you videos and student work samples. Hire people who know their weaknesses as educators and are willing to improve them.
Learn from the programs that work. Stop sending low-performing teachers to endless Professional Development lectures; set them up with a mentor instead. Have them reflect, read, write, and think – just like we want our youth to.
I wouldn’t trust a doctor who has never been in a hospital. I would never trust a pilot who hasn’t flown.
So why do we think we can trust teachers who’ve never been in front of a class?
James Kobialka teaches Science and English in Worcester, MA