The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Training Our Teachers

The Council for Basic Education, in a survey, asked teachers
how  to improve the quality of teacher education  programs.   The
results  indicate  that  most college  and  university   programs
concentrate on the theory of teaching and not on the practice  of
teaching.   As  a  result, many teachers  enter   classrooms  ill
equipped to teach effectively.  

For some teachers being unprepared from day one  results  in
a career which immediately heads  downhill.  The tragedy is that
sometimes  the  teachers  with   the  greatest  potential  leave,
because they have other options, while those with less  potential
stay and muddle through.

The  teachers surveyed felt that  they were not  trained  in
the  subject they were to teach.  Further,  they were not  taught
any  strategies on how to teach the content they did  know.   One
teacher  noted that : “Universities are without a clue as how  to
relate content with cognitive strategies.”  Another said:  “Never
in  my methods courses did we talk about how to teach someone  to
read.”   They  also  were not given  any  training  in  classroom
management and as one teacher put it, it was  “Baptism by  Fire.”
As  a  result, teachers are left floundering,  failing   and  not
enjoying their chosen careers.     

The teachers in this survey  advocated the following changes
to  teacher preparation : First, require all teachers to know  the
content  of the subjects they teach.  Second, teach  pedagogy  in                  
the  context  of the academic content. Third,  offer  prospective
teachers many and varied school-based experiences. 

Even  if  they survive and make it to the point  where  they
feel  competent  as   teachers, the credential  system  can  work
against them.  If they  are licensed to teach elementary  school,
they can, theoretically, teach any grade from K to 8.    A person
who  is  successful  teaching eighth grade  could  be   moved  to
first  grade  if  the need arises, even though  she  may  not  be
prepared,  not enjoy or want to teach at  that level.    Teachers
are not  interchangeable either temperamentally or technically.

 Teacher education and certification programs need to change. 
Since  most entrenched systems resist change, there will have  to
be loud  protests before there is any action.  Protest works.  The
action  taken  by the Ford Motor Company and  other  corporations
shows how.

The  Company  informed the universities that they  would  no
longer  accept recruits from them unless they produced  graduates
who were an asset to the company from day one.

This  change in attitude came about because Ford   downsized
middle management which used to train new recruits.  The  Company
no  longer  wants   to do the training.  Ford  says  it  can  not
afford to hire a graduate  and then take two years to train  him.
That’s what the university was supposed to do .

One  of  the results of this mandate  is the   evolution  of
corporate internships.  At the University of Minnesota,  business            
undergraduates connect with a corporate mentor in their  freshman
year.   At  Lehigh,  engineering  students  are  working  with
Johnson and Johnson  to design a new hypodermic needle.

As a result, the university is no longer an island but  is
forming  connections  to learn what  skills  its  graduates  need
to succeed.  In addition, internships allow companies to  preview
candidates   before  hiring them,  and    students   learn  about
different careers before pursuing one.

Ford says it is not trying to run the university, but it  is
trying  to  get  out  of the business of  having  to  rework  the
graduates  it  gets.  The same sentence should be said  loud  and
clear  by school systems and parents.  

The  colleges  and  universities which  train  our  teachers
should  be held to the following requirements:  They  should   be
responsible   for their graduates  knowing the subjects they  are
to  teach.  They should have affiliations with   school  systems.
They  should  provide internship programs with  competent  school
personnel   as  early as the freshman year.    They  should  lose
their  accreditation  if  their  graduates do  not  prove  to  be
qualified to teach.

If  corporate  America can make   demands  from  educational
institutions   in  order to produce better products,   why  can’t
school  systems   make  similar  demands  in  order   to  produce 
better qualified teachers and ultimately  better students?      

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