First, a little bit of background. Two years ago, after a long hard day of teaching, I was struck by a thought: “You know, this just isn’t hard enough,” This is the kind of thing that often happens to Catholic school survivors, distance runners, and other types who are addicted to suffering.
Anyway, this impulse lead me to decide go back to graduate school to get my elementary education certification. I was a little worried about taking classes on top of my regular workload, but as I got back into school, I had a revelation: it was actually easier.
When you are in grad school and go into student teaching, and then (hopefully) into a permanent position, it is a blur of sleepless nights, stress, crying, wailing and gnashing of teeth. But after a few years, you figure things out, you make friends and learn the ropes, and it gets easier. Actually it doesn’t get easier. You get better at it. And at that point, all that theory that seemed to go right out the window as soon as the first student wandered into your field of vision begins to make a bit more sense.
So, when I went back to grad school, when the profs talked about assessment and learning outcomes and objectives I could picture how all this could look with my students. It was real and intuitive to me in a way it just wasn’t before I started teaching. It made me feel like such a smartypants.
This experience has made me think about how we prepare teachers in the USA: a year and a half (or less) of theory, a semester of student teaching, and then right into the shark tank, cauldron, firestorm, or combination of all three. This way kind of sucks. I know I’m not the first to say this…but it kind of does. What we really need is an extended apprenticeship, where would-be teachers could start out as teaching assistants and work their way up, taking classes along the way. Someone else much smarter than myself has probably already said this, maybe Mike Rose.
This would require our society to value (read: GIVE MONEY TO) education in a way it never really has, but in the long run it would make for better, more committed teachers, I think.
Also, more people would get to make bugs out of candy to learn how to engage kids in scientific inquiry. And that is really fun.