"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, March 06, 2006

Student Teachers Left Behind

A Schools Matter reader sent this article along by Doug Selwyn at Rethinking Schools Online . It is time for schools of education to step up to the plate and educate the nation's young teachers who will be faced with the oppressive, unjust, draconian policies of a corrupt government more interested in the short-term bottom line of corporations than in real and meaningful education reform. The dialogue and the conversation has to begin somewhere. What better place than where the nation's future educators and leaders are currently being trained?

The negative impact NCLB is having on student teaching is another example of why this law must be repealed. Selwyn points to the increasing difficulty ed schools face in placing student teachers because of adminstrators' fears that a new and inexperienced teacher may not possess the skills associated with teaching to the test. In the world of accountability and punitive sanctions, student teachers are viewed as a liability when it comes to raising test scores and avoiding sanctions.

How much more damage will be done in the name of accountability? It's time to hold those who hide behind the empty rhetoric and drumbeat of accountability to be held accountable for the destruction being inflicted on the education profession. Educating teachers about NCLB and public policies in general that will impact their careers, their lives and the welfare of their students should be a core requirement of any teacher education program.

We are not satisfied with our ideas about how to be most effective in this climate. We asked our current students how we could best prepare them (and those students who will follow them) to deal with the NCLB environment. They had the following suggestions:

Really push students to get to know the law. I know you push us to become familiar with NCLB, and to realize that education is political, but I never really read it. Give us the assignment to get to know the law so that we can be more aware of what it really says.

Have more conversations about the realities of the politics of schools. As depressing as it is, it is helpful to have these conversations, and to develop strategies together to both survive and to serve our students.

Bring theory and practice together in a practical manner so that students can learn how to satisfy both NCLB and their souls. Many students felt excited and inspired by the constructivist, child-centered approaches that focus on social justice advocated at Antioch, and then betrayed when they entered schools only concerned with following scripts and meeting cut scores. They felt a strong need to know how to survive in the NCLB system long enough to bring change to it.

It is a large challenge that we face in teacher education, but it is one we must face; we really have no choice if we wish to save public education and the teaching profession


1 comment:

  1. Exactly! I am a first year teacher, and my student teaching experience was exactly as you said. I student taught 1st in the fall, hoping to graduate in December, but it was not meant to be, not because I didn't have the skills, but because my host school had put such pressure on its teachers that my mentor and I could not seem to communicate, she had to make sure her class got prepared, and I was so afraid that if I did not do things her way, that her kids would fail. I moved on to mentor number 2... now my stress level was so high I got sick, but I came anyway because I was doing well, at least until I made the mistake of being honest and saying that I wasn't sure that the kids learned that much from me in a particular math lesson...she even gave me a different copy of the evaluation I was supposed to turn in. Talk about mixed signals. So my college mentors decided that I needed to give it another shot in the Spring, maybe it was just a grade level issue, was thier thinking. I know now that wasn't the case, but anyway. I get to my 3rd mentor who was very experienced, and more trusting of student teachers and everything went fine... except for the teacher on the team that would make comments that would tend to suggest that she was insane for letting me work with the kids who were so close to being able to pass, instead of the kids that "didn't matter so much". Ugh.
    The fact that people need to realize is that they all matter. I refuse to give up my idealism, all children can learn something...and not everything worth learning can be put on a standardized test. My kids perform better because they know I care about them as people, not as "bubble filler inners."