Thursday, December 29, 2016

Beginning teachers need to learn to teach.

Teaching's a profession. Like all professions, it takes training ... and practice. This practice can't be found in a Wheaties Box and it's can't be found on Twitter.

To be a teacher, you need to be an intern, an apprentice, a beginning teacher. In the beginning you need to get help and guidance from experienced teachers. You may be smart and may have gotten good grades in college/high school, but that doesn't mean you can teach.
  1. Your "digital native" status is not even worth the paper it isn't printed on.
  2. Your youth is worth nothing (and for a while, you'll be paid accordingly).
  3. Your opinions about how to teach are worth pretty close to nothing.
You'll have to learn from the older teachers. They didn't learn math using a MacBook nor do they Tweet every random thought, but that doesn't mean that those older teachers don't have a lot to offer. Some of us are hidebound, curmudgeonly old bastards, but you must learn to look past that and filter out the years of accumulated irritation at Professional Development.

Six weeks in summer camp can't replace six months of teaching actual teenagers under the supervision of an experienced teacher, nor will those six weeks ever prepare you in any meaningful way. On the other hand, there are plenty of people in TFA who MIGHT make good teachers someday.

Vilification is just as silly as beatification. The problem I have with TFA is the tendency to assume sainthood of someone who is treating two years in public school as temporary thing, as if some court sentenced them to 2 years of community service for the crime of not acquiring a 6-figure income job.

Now that you're a teacher ...

This profession is unbelievably screwed up in many ways and we're going to need you to keep it together long enough to pick up on the difference between stupid shit that sounds good (a "deepity") and good ideas that sound stupid at first.

You'll see both kinds.

From whence, "Deepity"?

We (and by this, I mean people who make decisions and influence school boards) listen to the opinions of people who haven't ever been teachers. We take seriously the suggestions and complaints from CEOs and computer wizards who couldn't be bothered to finish their own education. We listen to Andre Agassi's opinions about the ideal school and take him seriously when he says he wants to start a school and he knows what works with kids and how teachers should teach ... except that he quit school in the ninth grade and turned tennis pro at the age of 16. His father was supposed drive the kids to school but took them to local tennis courts to practice instead. How is this supposed to instill confidence in his opinions about how schools should be run for the majority?


Here's a talking head:
“Both sides ignore this fact: The classroom performance of beginning Teach For America instructors is about the same as that of education school graduates just starting out. On average, both do poorly. More supervision and support would help both groups. How does aggravating the feud make that happen?”
Let's set aside the idea that more Supervision would help because Supervision never helps a first-year teacher. Help and support from other teachers would help.  Supervision does nothing.

What scares me is the idea that this starting incompetence is the norm, that the classroom performance of TFA teachers equals that of "education school graduates" ... if that isn't an insult to the TFA, then someone's not paying attention.  TFA are supposedly the best and brightest of the Ivy Leagues and the top-notch colleges. Shouldn't we be striving for a level of competence higher than that of the people who failed out of every other program in college, that of those who were so bad at everything they settled for an education degree?

Scott MacLeod, in MindDump, quoted this guy, who said, in part,
re: “Let’s-find-and-fire-the-bad-teachers”
The problem with the approach that Friedman and others advocate is that it assumes we have all these wonderful, high-quality teachers just waiting in the wings to take over the jobs of the bad teachers we fire. In reality, there is no such supply, even in a bad economy with high unemployment. We have a shortage, not a surplus, of great teachers—and so it’s na├»ve or shortsighted (or both) to think we can somehow fire our way to a great educational system.
This is true. If you fire someone in the middle of the school year, there aren't all that many applicants that are worth even as much as  John Garner's assessment of the Vice-Presidency. Your ad on SchoolSpring will get a lot of response because it's really easy to push that button, but the candidates' qualifications will be dubious at best.
There are almost four million K-12 teachers in the United States, which is more than twice the number of lawyers and doctors combined. Teaching is America’s largest profession. And so we need teaching to be a job that an average person can do reasonably well, which means we probably need to rethink how the job is structured. ( Justin Snider )
Holy mackerel.

"Change teaching so that the average person can do it well." Why not improve it, instead? Why do we care what some economists have found and what some random blogger says about it?

"If the teachers can't measure up, then we must measure down."


I can't accept that.  We need more teachers than lawyers and doctors because those two professions aren't needed by a third of the population for 7 hours a day for ten months of the year.

Where do you come in, newbie?

You come in right here. You read things. If you've read this far, you'll probably make a great teacher.

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