My experience didn’t prepare me. I took one class in child development and three teaching methods courses. Then I student taught for three months. I was hired three months later and I was simply unprepared.
I was certified by the state of New Jersey to teach. Many of those teachers who were hired in the same year as me had better undergrad experiences than I did. Many more classes in education, specialized training in working with special education students, more of a variety of classroom experiences. And yet I still feel as if we were all unprepared.
Flash forward 15 years. As an administrator, I now have the opportunity to interview and hire new teachers, as well as work with young teachers and educators-to-be. And I can honestly say that for the majority of teachers entering this profession, they have been left unprepared.
Our system of preparing our educators-to-be isn’t quite cutting it. There are some who understand that our college students need to be better prepared. I recently wrote about a group of college students who held their own Edcamp and connect with active educators via social media. But these still remain pockets of innovation. Many of our newest teachers are left with little support and when it comes to being ready for the classroom, left unprepared.
Starting next year, New Jersey will require potential teachers to attain 175 additional hours in clinical experience. While this is a start, it is also important that colleges and universities begin to prepare these students in ways that don’t rely exclusively on traditional mindsets and methods of teaching.
They shouldn’t have to attend specific colleges or universities to get this type of training, as all educational establishments should work to offer this to potential students who wish to make a start in the teaching industry. However, it doesn’t come cheap. If you have gone down the route of higher education before, you may have been required to learn more about how to refinance student loans so you can lower the total amount that you could be required to pay on interest. In fact, this is something that every college student should look into as this could make a positive difference to your financial situation.
So, by each establishment changing the curriculum, more teachers will have the necessary knowledge and experience to excel in the classroom and beyond.
It’s also important that at the district level, we do a better job of preparing and working with our newer teachers. Some districts have great mentorship programs, and provide support throughout the first few years in the classroom. Many do not. In many districts, we pair student teachers with those who have been in the classroom the longest. While their experience might make them experts, they also haven’t had the feeling of what it’s like to be a new teacher in many years. Might it be more beneficial to pair them with our stronger teachers who have more recently gone through induction into the profession?
Many states across the country are facing quality teacher shortages. It’s time that we rethink how our preparation and induction of teachers occurs. Let’s get away from those traditional methods, “what we’ve always done.”
Let’s get students into more of our classroom more frequently, and seeing the best learning that is taking place.
High school students in the classroom?
College students spending less time on campus and more time with our best teachers?
School districts dedicating time and resources toward stellar induction programs and support systems?
Continuing that support for 4-5 years as these teachers begin to support newer teachers?
We need to create a better system, one that is going to create better prepared teachers, better equipped to handle today’s classrooms and students. Without taking any steps or asking any questions about our current teacher prep programs, we are simply leaving our future educators unprepared.
Special thanks goes out to Mike Ritzius, who I had a conversation with a few weeks ago about this topic. Thanks for the inspiration!