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

Monday, December 11, 2006

On Teacher Education

A reader responds to this earlier post on teacher preparation programs:
At 12:25 PM, Anonymous said...

I just traveled to Mississippi and met with a state director there who is heading the federally mandated flagship component of perfunctory NCLB which will remain nameless here. She touted the benefits of testing students in her state and were eager to report that in conjucntion with publically-funded state universities the state has mandated 15 hours of reading currculum for all teachers prior to becoming certified to teach elementary school in the state.

It is frightening to think that despite your teaching intentions one is mandated to complete courses in literacy instruction that are not the best ways to teach. Not all children are going to learn to read by killing and drilling with phonics, and nor should they be condemned to failure if they don't know the differences between the long a and short a vowel sounds. This type of teacher education reform is wrong. It's misguided and destroys any creativity teachers are offerd in thier classroom.

I was recently discussing with a friend, if our schools looked like schools in India and China (which is what neocons would love so we could churn out more math and science majors), we would lose our competitive edge in areas like innovation, creativity, and leaderhsip skills that this country's schools teachs better than any other nation in the world. Teachers that don't allow thier students to explore int he classroom and garner academic freedom upon thier students, then we are doomed to become a nation of compulsively obient machines.

I think that there is something to Mr. Levine's report; however, it is not in preparing teachers for standards-based curriculum in schools. Standards for teacher education is not such a bad thing if it is done well and advocates the good things that all teachers should know. Teacher education should have a common approach and teachers should definitely learn how to design invigorating, motivating and challenging curriculum; learn how to assess students' learning FAIRLY and ACCURATELY; write thorough lessons plans that are flexible in meeting the needs of all students; engage in community outreach to extend teaching beyond the classroom; and learn how to continue with their own teacher education to be life-long learners themselves (that all schools advocate in their own mission statements, and want their own students to become).

I've thought about this while in the midst of my own applciaitons for teacher ed programs. What sets teacher education programs apart from other professional programs such as medical schools that trains doctors or law schools that trains lawyers (do we really need more lawyers anyway)? In other countries, for example a colleague from Scandinavia has mentioend that becoming a teacher there is considered an honor and in many cases can be extremely competive. When will Americans begin to show similar respect?

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