I find this to be a most appropriate topic, yet few people seem willing to talk about it. To be honest, I believe it to be one of the most important issues in education today. I am a retired principal from Wisconsin, who has interviewed and hired many many teachers. I continue to be involved in education as an adjunct professor for a midwestern university and a seminar presenter for student teachers in another Wisconsin school of education. What I saw and still see over and over again are way too many "vanilla" teachers being graduated from our colleges and universities. By "vanilla", I mean average at best.
Every bit of research out there tells us that the single biggest thing we can do to create a successful student is to give every student a GREAT teacher. Sadly, our universities are not producing enough of them. There are several things that I would propose to do:
!) Find a process by which we can weed out those who do not fit the profile of a potentially great teacher. I do believe that with time, a personality test, interview process, entry skills test, "empathy test", etc. could be developed that will "gently" eliminate those that are not best suited to be teachers, before they get into student teaching and then our classrooms. We need our best and brightest to be teachers.
2) Higher level education needs to allow the really best teachers to educate our future teachers. Let's be honest, many of our college education professors today have not taught in an elementary, middle school or high school classroom for 20-30 years, if ever. Should not our most outstanding master teachers be teaching our undergraduates? Have universities ever thought of having their professors, at the very least, team teach undergrad education classes with master teachers from the local school districts? They know where the rubber meets the road and would be far greater role models.
3) Right now, the standards in the over 1200 teacher preparation instiutions are all over the place. Could we get some agreement on how to educate great future teachers? Where is the movement to do this? I know that there are suggested national standards, but how many schools really adhere to them and are they as good as they should be?
4) Let's really take a long hard look at the courses that our future teachers are taking and question if the right things are being emphasized. My youngest child is a teacher from a very highly regarded institution of higher education, yet when I looked at his syllabus for one of his classes, "differentiation" was a single chapter in one book. What is that? Differentiation always needs to be an entire course. That is just a small example of what I have seen over and over again.
In my fall seminar for student teachers, I am amazed every year by the questions that the students ask. Through no fault of their own, they have gone through at least 3 years of college and are sent into the classroom grossly under educated on way too many fronts. After walking through their breakout sessions and listening to them interact, I can honestly say, now five years running, that at least 1/4 of them have no business being in the classroom.
Hopefully, this will get the attention of someone who may respond that thinks that there are issues in higher education that also need our attention. Those of us in the field know that at the rate higher education moves, we may get change in 20 years. By that time, it will be too late for lots and lots of students PK-12.
* Last updated by: principalgolfer on 9/25/2011 @ 4:46 PM *