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Study Finds Training of New Teachers Flawed…

July 23, 2011

I found this article in the New York Times to be pretty interesting with regard to student teacher training.

The gist of the article is mostly about how the new study which suggests that:

The National Council on Teacher Quality, an advocacy group, is to issue a study on Thursday reporting that most student-teaching programs are seriously flawed. The group has already angered the nation’s schools for teachers with its plans to give them letter grades that would appear in U.S. News and World Report.

The council’s report, “Student Teaching in the United States,” rated 134 student-teaching programs nationwide — about 10 percent of those preparing elementary school teachers — and found that three-quarters of them did not meet five basic standards for a high-quality student-teaching program.

I remember my student teaching very well.  I student taught at a little school in Spokane, Washington as part of my Masters program with Washington State University.  It was an incredibly demanding and rigorous time for my cohort as we taught during the day and we took classes at night, the classes were in addition to all the demands of teaching such as: lesson planning, grading, report cards, etc…when I look back on it I do believe my program prepared me quite well for what I was going to encounter in the classroom.

Last year I had the opportunity to train 3 new special education student teachers from San Diego State University.  I opened up my resource room and my accumulated knowledge to help these students – who turned out to be absolutely fantastic.  One complaint that I had with my program, and that I saw reflected in San Diego State’s program was the reliance on preparing formal written lesson plans.

I realized within the first few weeks of my student teaching that preparing formal written lesson plans was a COLOSSAL waste of time.  Often, I would spend hours writing these plans addressing every little learning concept to please my university supervisor, then I would have to take the pages of lesson plans, and coalesce them into bullet points to keep me on track during my formal lesson with the students.  I feel that knowing how to act and behave with students is the key to being a successful teacher, not how well you write lessons.  I also feel that as a teacher you need to be a “people-person” 0r at the very least you need to like people and have a generally pleasing demeanor.  Being pleasant goes a long way with helping students like and trust you in class in my opinion.

How I approached being a master teacher:  When my student teachers first arrived I told them that I didn’t want to read their lesson plans, imagine the shock on their faces.  What I wanted from them was to see them interact with our students. I wanted to see how they developed student trust, and respect on a daily basis as these are keys to being a good teacher.  I also wanted them to know that this was their time to learn, I was there to foster their learning but I wanted them to grow as teachers and feel comfortable in that role being themselves.

When I student taught I remember the day that I finally figured out that I needed to take all the readings that I had done on how to teach and then adopt them to my personality.  I thought that I have made it this far in life and done alright with my personality, it was time to let my kids see that.  It worked, I started to feel comfortable, my students started to respond, we developed excellent relationships based on trust and respect. I wanted to try this with my student teachers but I wasn’t sure how they would respond to this ideology.  At first they were surprised that I wasn’t over their shoulder every second, but as time went on I watched them blossom once they started to “own” what they were doing with the kids.  At the end of each day we would debrief and discuss how everything went, it was very informal and comfortable.

The only times we were formal was for testing, Student Study Team meetings and IEP meetings.  My advice (if any college director is reading this) would be to lessen the lesson plan demands on student teachers.  Give them more time in the classroom with the kids developing good, solid relationships.  Let them “own” what they are doing with the students and don’t criticize them harshly, student teaching is hard – we are there to help them, and point them in the right direction but we are not there to berate them.

This blog posting went way off-base from the article link I posted above, I just started typing and this is how it ended up.  Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have about student teaching, and how to be a good master teacher – something I look forward to doing again.

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