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Student Teaching

E.D. Kain says:

So, in a perfect world I might agree with Klein. And I think it’s possible that teaching programs should be modified in important ways. For instance, half a year of student teaching strikes me as a huge and unnecessary barrier to entry into the teaching profession for many people who work in other fields already. Who can afford to take that much time off work? Flexible student teaching schedules could help open doors for people who would otherwise be financially barred from taking that step.

As someone who just finished my student teaching I thought I might throw in some thoughts.  First, let me explain how my system worked at my college.  Student teaching was broken down into three semesters.  The first semester, you were just going to be doing mostly observations of a classroom for a total of 50 hours.  You were also expected to teach 1-3 lessons during this period.  The second semester, you were going to be doing more observing and more teaching.  It was 50 hours again, but her you were expected to teach a 5 lessons.  The last semester was broken up into quarters.  One quarter you were in a middle school and the other quarter you were in a high school.  I was told that I should not work during this and it would have been really hard to do so.  (I was also working on my masters paper at the time).

 So would a more flexible student teaching schedule be better for people from other fields?  I would say get rid of the first two semesters of observations and random lessons for them, but student teaching is an important part of teacher preparation.

One change to student teaching I think that colleges should do is only have student teachers start in the beginning of the school year (which would make it even more inflexible, but with good reason).  The reason to do this is because student teaching that begins at a point that is not the beginning of the year isn’t realistic.  For example, I started at a high school.  I was teaching on day one.  I was there to set up classroom management and class expectations.  It felt like it was my classroom from the beginning.  It was realistic in the way that I got to set up (to an extent) how I wanted my class to be run.

My second quarter, I was at a middle school.  The second quarter of student teaching was not as good as the first.  It is a more unrealistic situation.  You are no longer teaching in a classroom that is yours, but in one that was another teachers’.  It felt like I was trying to teach wearing her clothes.  We had different ways of managing classrooms and different ideas about teaching methods.  Basically, it was a false reality.  I was trying to navigate my teaching in the framework of her classroom.  It was not realistic to how it will be in the real world for me as a teacher.

What is important about student teaching is being there everyday.  The second quarter was not the best situation, but I still learned a lot.  It is a really good experience going to a school everyday, interacting with students, teachers, teacher aides, and administrators, planning lessons and units, dealing with classroom management, sitting in on staff meetings and IEPs, and so on.

I think that the best situation would be one where the student teacher is in the classroom on day one.  This is not realistic, though, I know.  It would limit the when all student teachers can get into the classroom.

Kain is concerned with people in other fields and how they would be able to student teach with their work schedules.  The answer to this would be for the government to subsidize them while they are doing their student teaching.  Crazy, but when I was student teaching I was working about 50 hours plus and actually paying for the privilege to do so.  It’s what other successful countries do:

Linda Darling-Hammond:

Teacher candidates in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands now receive 2 to 3 years of graduate-level preparations for teaching, completely at government expense, plus a living stipend.  Typically, this includes at least a full year of training in a school connected to the university, like the model schools in Finland, which resemble professional development school partnerships created by some U.S. programs.  Programs also include extensive coursework in content-specific pedagogy and a thesis researching an educational problem in the schools.   (Bold mine)


Unlike the United States, where teachers either go into debt to prepare for a profession that will pay them poorly or enter with little or no training, these countries invest in a uniformly well-prepared teaching force by overhauling preparation, recruiting top candidates, and paying them to go to school.  Slots in teaching programs are highly coveted, in these nations, and shortages are extremely rare.

The Flat World and Education p. 199

We should take training our future teachers seriously and education should be considered a natural resource that we invest in.  It’s what other successful countries do:

Linda Darling-Hammond:

Nations that have steeply improved their students’ achievement, such as Finland, Korea, Singapore, and others attribute much of their success to their focused investments in teacher preparation and development.  Creating an infrastructure that can routinely recruit and prepare teachers effectively and can support successful teaching at scale is the arena in which the United States has lagged the most.  Although there are some great teachers in every community, and some strong professional preparation and development programs sprinkled across the country, the landscape of supports for quality teaching looks like Swiss cheese.

The Flat World and Education p. 194

Do people who have good life or work experiences mean that they will be good teachers.  Some yes, but many no (And a whole other post).  And even those who have a natural knack for teaching will benefit from more preparation for the classroom.  Student teaching is an important and necessary, but I think it should be changed so that student teachers are in the classroom on day one and participate in setting up their own type of classroom and that we should pay student teachers.  They are doing the work of a real teacher.  Many are going into debt and are facing the prospects of a bad job market (like me!), a lot of student debt (like me!), and the prospect of not very good pay when they beginning teaching (like me!).

Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. 06/01/2011 at 6:49 am

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