Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Part I of 3: The Future of Teacher Prep Programs

By on February 25, 2010

My credential program was more of a necessary hoop than a valuable preparation program. My Ed Psych professor read his screenplay to us all semester long. My Methods of Math professor hadn’t been in a classroom for 30 years, and before then, it was only for six months. I never had a class in Classroom Management, and in one class I was even asked to work in a small group with an obviously violent, mentally unstable individual who was only one class away from his student teaching. So I’ve clearly spent some time thinking about the future of teacher credential programs and their role in the future of our profession.

So time travel with me to some year in the future as I mull over the possibilities for a more honest and rigorous path to the classroom. Allow me some leniency here. I am not an economist. I am fantasizing about a program that can only exist in a funded world, and my suggestions of possible funding revenue may come from fantasy as well, but they are meant to try to stir up some out-of-the-box possibilities. I have not solved everything. There are holes in my logic. But my blog is sometimes by place of brainstorm not final draft, and if you’d like, I’d love to hear your brainstorms as well.

So today I’m going to start a 3 part series on this fantasy Teacher Prep Program of mine. Part I will focus on the following:

The Overall Vision

The Application Process

Options for Second Career Teachers

So here we go into my fantasyland. Join me at your own risk.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The Overall Vision: The year is 2030 and I’m still waiting for the jetpack promised to me. On a more positive note, at least the teacher credentialing programs of the future have become a more honest introduction to the challenges and rewards of teaching, while also becoming a more accurate predictor of a candidate’s future teaching quality. While todays programs are all about teaching the standards, the teacher preparation programs of the future are all about The Three Cs: Content, Communication, and Character.

It is actually more affordable for a candidate to seek a credential then ever before because the in-your-seat portion of the program is shorter (and available online as well as offline), and the student teaching portion is treated more like a paid-apprenticeship than free help in the classroom.

Teacher credential programs have become as differentiated as the quality of teachers they produce, luring folks from every profession to share their knowledge with students of all levels. But while there is flexibility of path to achieve a credential, the programs have become a more rigorous gatekeeper for the profession as a whole, allowing those who have achieved a credential appropriate awe at a party. Hey, it’s my fantasy, right?

The application process: To get into a teacher preparation program, candidates can come from a BA program or a profession, yet all have gone through a rigorous application process. The requirements to gain entrance into a program should once again be driven by the 3 Cs: Content, Communication, and Character. The process includes letters of recommendation, personal interview, content exams or transcripts or a Professional Evidence Portfolio, and answers to questions of how someone would handle particular scenarios.

Here is an excerpt from a teacher preparation program application:

Question #3. Student A never turns in his homework, is absent from school often, comes to class late when he does decide to show, and yet still manages to get Cs on his test. You tell him to come after school to make up some work, but the kid never shows. You’ve called the parent, but he or she has never returned your calls, and besides, they are the ones dropping him off late or perhaps even letting him stay at home. He’s not disruptive in class, but the kids won’t work with him, because they can’t depend on him to keep up his share of the work. His notebook is totally empty. Have you done enough to reach this student? What can you do to help him connect to school?

Professional Evidence Portfolio: Let’s say a dad of two young kids has just been struck by lightning with the realization that he’s just GOT to teach. He’s been working in a cubical analyzing data for 10 years and it’s supported his family, but he really misses using that math degree in a more social way. How does that guy make a leap to another ladder while still supporting his family? After all, we can’t expect a father of two to drop his paying job for 2 ? years or more of unpaid, hoop jumping.

Well the teacher credential programs of the future will allow a person to do just that. Professional evidence can be exchanged for content area exams or transcripts. A person can create a portfolio of content expertise proof in the form of Excel spreadsheets, business letters, company communications, etc…

On the onset of the application process, each candidate is provided with an advisor to help guide him or her in the creation of this Professional Evidence Portfolio. The counselor also has the authority to deny the application if there is not enough evidence to prove content area expertise, and can advise the candidate towards appropriate options like content area exams or classes.

Teacher prep programs of the future don’t lower their standards or cut corners just to allow flexibility for second career teachers. What they do is create other paths that will allow people to find teaching later in their lives. Teaching cannot be a sloppy second to some other career that didn’t work out. But getting a credential will be possible for those who have the skills and the knowledge to impart. Professional Evidence is a form of career credits, serving to exchange world and life knowledge for passage into a teacher prep program.

A Professional Evidence Portfolio also may allow for waiver of two of the classes in the program’s in-class strand (see next post).

Soon to come, Part II: The Future of Teacher Prep Programs

The Staff

Awards Towards Differentiating A Credential

So, breaking it down into these Part I categories, what does your fantasy future teacher prep program look like?

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