Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications
June 30th, 2012 by Luann

Becoming an Accomplished Teacher

This post was inspired by a Twitter conversation with @GetUpStandUp2 and @kiwigirl58 in which I learned that Randi Weingarten,

John Dewey in 1902

John Dewey in 1902

president of the American Federation of Teachers, stated in an interview with Walter Isaccson, (described here in the Atlantic) that teachers should have to pass a bar exam. This bar exam would not be merely a test,but would also have a “clinical component.”  The discussion, which eventually included a few remarks from Randi, focused on how we might improve teacher quality. Then, @Nancy Flanagan of Teacher in a Strange Land inspired me to actually blog again. (If you’re not following these people, you should be.) Here are my thoughts, as one who’s been developed professionally in a number of ways, on becoming an accomplished teacher. Stay with me here……

  1. Teachers should have a strong background in any subject they will each.  This is easier for secondary teachers, because we deal with at most a few content areas.  K-6 teachers need to know social studies, health, how to teach reading, wipe noses, and a zillion other things that don’t exist in my world. They also need to know far more mathematics and science than they want to believe (shamelessly cites own dissertation).
  2. Teachers need a strong and extended practicum; one semester with an accomplished teacher, at the very least. This is my biggest concern with Teach for America.  Their preparation seems to be a 5-week pep talk and some support during the school year while attempting to manage a classroom.
  3. At the end of the practicum and coursework, the university practicum supervisor and cooperating teacher recommend the aspiring teacher for licensure, or not. Pre-servire teachers also take some kind of exam(s). So, here, we have a test and a clinical component, too. (Oh. Wait.  Isn’t this how we do it now?)
  4. Newly licensed pilots and SCUBA divers are told that their certification is no seal of approval on their expertise. It’s a license to keep learning.  That’s what our newbie teachers need to understand. So do their new employers and their new mentors. For the first year, a new teacher should share a classroom with an accomplished teacher.  Not a teacher who’s simply got a lot of years of experience; an accomplished teacher, such as a NBCT. During this time of co-teaching, the new teacher should have no other responsibilities.  No evening classes, no coaching responsibilities, nothing but time to become immersed in his or her students’ learning.  They are free to seek the means to grow professionally as suits their needs.
  5. Year 2 teachers, if deemed worthy by their mentor and administrator, may now have their own classrooms.  Again, no night classes or coaching; the support to seek needed individual professional growth experiences.
  6. Year 3 teachers are ready to actively participate in professional growth. Choices might be a masters degree or, after year 3, National Board Certification. Many states offer an alternative route to professional or continuing certification that approximates National Board Certification but has less rigor and more busywork.
  7. National Board Certification is ideal, because it must be renewed every 10 years. As soon as an NBCT’s eyes grow accustomed to the glare on the shiny, new certificate, thoughts turn to carefully choosing professional growth opportunities that can be translated into direct or indirect impact on student learning.  And therein lies the evaluation.  Reflective self-evaluation of one’s own practice is the most rigorous measure of effectiveness.

Not much new here, is there? The only real differences I suggest are very strong mentoring and support to work consistently, clearly, and convincingly at a high level, and the expectations of hard work and the modeling of continuous learning and improvement. No going through the motions.  Mentors, university supervisors, principals – step it up, please.  Just do your best.

Your thoughts, please?

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