Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Part 3 of 3: The Future of Teacher Prep Programs

By on February 26, 2010

Well, what began as mere musings, seems to have become a fully fleshed fantasy for what a teacher prep program of the future may look like. It all began in Part 1 of this series of posts. It continued in Part 2, and now it concludes in this, The Final Chapter.

In this last installment, I cover the following topics:

The Curriculum

The Student Teacher Apprenticeship Program

Relationships between Districts and Teacher Prep Programs

Graduation Requirements

…And Beyond

They aren’t fully flushed out. There are holes. Perhaps they cause problems even while solving others. But as I’ve said before, just as the future of science sometimes begins in science-fiction, so does the future of education begin in education-fiction.

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The Curriculum: Approximately 1 year, with waiver opportunities possibly shortening this portion of the program.

Each class is structured to address how it applies to any or all of the 3 Cs (Content, Communication, and Character). By the end, each staff member is asked to evaluate the candidate on a rubric based on all of these categories to determine if he or she will move ahead to the apprenticeship portion of the program. The Intro to Collaboration and Nuts and Bolts classes can be waived based on the specifics of a Professional Evidence Portfolio (see Part I on the Professional Evidence Portfolio).

Class #1: History of Teaching. This class is about modeling practice through the study of past great teachers. It is also about keeping the ideal of the greatest teachers pinned to the bedroom mirror frame, reminding candidates of the teacher they are striving to be. This class studies the practice of some of the greatest teachers in history, both from the United States and abroad. These classes could also include the great teachers from literature to serve as a model or as an inspiration for the candidate’s own practice. Studying “superteachers” will help more of them to be super teachers. Was that too gimmicky? But it holds true. This class examines the professional lives of those who history or literature has deemed great in their influence of Content, Communication, and Character.

Class #2: Scenario Management – This class includes actual scenarios submitted by teachers to aid in quick problem-solving and discussion prompts. This allows students to brainstorm together to solve the problems while also giving candidates a real glimpse into the window of classrooms at every grade level and subject matter. They will mimic the possible reactions of the teachers studied in the prerequisite: History of Teaching, developing their own solutions with the qualities of those teachers in mind.

Class #3: Nuts and Bolts – This class covers the basic logistics of daily teaching life. It will deconstruct a teacher’s day, week, month, and year. This class talks about pacing lessons, pacing units, and pacing the year. What is the rhythm of a classroom? How does a teacher take attendance, respond to emails by parents or administrators? How many decisions does a teacher make in a 5-minute period? How does a teacher read a contract or a pay stub? How does a new teacher design a student-engaging classroom? How does one prep for a sub?

Class #4: Intro to Collaboration – This class will not only discuss the importance of collaboration in education, but will model it through participation. It will group candidates by grade level or subject level, allowing them to work in cohorts during this class to brainstorm lessons and tweak lessons in popular textbooks. The candidate will, thereby, by able to leave with a binder or portfolio of lessons already designed with the help and creativity of others. This class can’t be ABOUT collaboration; it must use collaboration to help each candidate.

Class #5: Intro to Creating Assessments – This class will cover the fundamentals of assessments. What makes a good assessment? What makes a fair assessment? What is the purpose of assessment?

Class #6: Grading Practices – This class demystifies what it is to grade papers, essays, multiple choice, etc…What kinds of rubrics exist and how can they be used better and more formatively? What is the purpose of grading, and how can a candidate create a system that can help students. How can a teacher work with or develop a grading system that does not become the focus of their practice and time? Popular variations of practices will be studied. Different grading programs will be discussed.

Class #7: Intro to Reflection – This class is meant to be conducted simultaneously with the student teaching apprenticeship 2-year program. The candidates must reflect on each lesson they conduct, its pros and cons. They must also analyze and evaluate lessons that they observe from many Mentor Teachers on campus. They can choose the method of their reflection, whether it is by blog, index card, journal, voice memo, etc…thus, differentiating their own reflection in the hopes that they will allow options to their future students one day. These pieces are then compiled and looked back on at different stages of the apprenticeship program.

Class #8: Teaching Metacognition – Many teachers don’t realize that the IQ can change. This is a powerful concept. How can teachers teach how to think? What are the methods of teaching the brain to embed information more effectively? This class will use brain research to help candidates understand how the brain works and learns at different stages in life and what lessons we can develop to address the brain’s abilities in its specific stages.

Class #9: Project Based Learning – How do the lessons of today apply in life outside of school? Teaching with project-based learning is one way for teachers and students to work together to problem solve real life problems. This class will walk a teacher through the methods of PBL and will give them specific methods of integrating their subject matter content. It will also cover the importance of applying each lesson to “real life” and making it clear to the students that what we learn in school is not just to prepare for a test, but to prepare for that life.

Class #10: Diversity in Learning and Teaching – What are multiple-intelligences? What are learning styles? What is a candidate’s learning style, and how can they teach to other styles? Moving beyond the brain research, how can a teacher address the different learners in his or her classroom? Does differentiation really mean we lose all standardization? If our purpose is to teach ALL students, then this class intends to introduce candidates to many of the thinkers he or she may encounter.

Student Teaching Apprenticeship Program 2 years of a paid, on-site apprenticeship program

OK, assuming a candidate has progressed to the next round in their preparation program (remember, the staff assesses each candidate in the 3 Cs before allowing that candidate to enter the apprenticeship program), then what follows is one possible student teaching scenario:

It’s a given. Candidates must have more time in the classroom with Mentor Teachers, co-teaching, as a means to learn what it is to have their own classroom. These Mentor Teachers should be given an appropriate salary to take on the apprentices of our profession. In turn, the candidates work closely with certain selected students in the class, giving additional support to targeted kids. Candidates are given the responsibility to keep track of those few students’ data. They can work on using assessments formatively with that student, reflecting with them, and can monitor their progress. Schools are in desperate need for smaller class sizes and more individualized attention for remedial students. Don’t pull those kids out, but rather, give them some additional support from these apprentice teachers. This is not in lieu of the Mentor Teacher’s attention; but it works in addition to that attention and expertise.

The 2-years of co-teaching is a paid position with a salary commensurate of apprentice-appropriate pay. It is not the district that pays the candidate. The candidate is paid out of monies supplied by both the teacher prep program and the government. It is not, therefore, in the best interest of the teacher prep program to pass everyone onto the student teaching round as it is now. In fact, as the process continues, there should be gates to go through to ensure that only the highest quality of educators are those who ultimately receive the credential.

During the apprenticeship, the candidate works closely with multiple Mentor Teachers (including an ELD teacher, RSP teacher, and content appropriate teacher), observing and learning.

Meanwhile, in addition to attending the Intro to Reflection class, the candidate must also attend simultaneous classes provided by the district on the demographic, cultures, and challenges that are specific to that district. Originally, the teacher prep programs taught these classes in the form of watered down, overall, nonspecific classes on multiculturalism. Pass the funds used to teach these out-of-context courses to the districts themselves. The districts, therefore, take on the role of educating their new candidates and teachers about the groups that are directly reflected in the new hires’ classrooms. These classes will have more impact when applied to the current experience of the teacher, and it is more important for the district to be providing their knowledge and support based on the demographics of their own community.

Relationships between Districts and Teacher Prep Programs
Teacher preparation programs should work in close affiliation with a particular school or district. The program knows the Mentor teachers and the Mentor teachers are involved with the teacher preparation program. It behooves both parties to make the relationship work.

Like many “teaching hospitals,” there will be more schools known as “teaching schools.” These schools are sought after by families because it means smaller student-to-educator ratios and because presumably, those in the classroom are the best quality, eager to be there and learn the best teaching practices from the Mentor Teachers who represent the best of their profession.

Graduation Requirements
The candidate’s ultimate graduation from the teacher prep program is comprised of the following:

1. a lesson portfolio

2. a digital resume including taped lessons to show potential employers

3. content specific testing

4. recommendations from the Master Teachers from the classroom program

5. recommendations from the Mentor teachers from the apprenticeship program (an ELL teacher, RSP teacher, and content specific teacher)

6. satisfactory observation evaluations from a supervisor from the prep program and well as a district observer.

If a candidate passes with ¾ of those at the table satisfied with his or her performance (assessed over a period of time), then they can be awarded a credential. A candidate with the unanimous vote of approval receives special recognition that can be used like an additional badge of accomplishment, ranking them higher than other graduating candidates.

…And beyond

And just as there is differentiation in our own classes, maybe there should be tiers of allowance for new teachers, like keys to different access of autonomy. Some new teachers will be able to take things on quickly, others will need more scaffolding and time. Some new teachers will climb quickly up the salary scale towards the golden chalice: tenure by showing facility in the three Cs, while others will be given more guidance and mentorship for as long as growth is seen. And with experience and expertise comes more responsibilities. After all, it makes no sense to give the new teacher a harder job when he or she is just learning the job. No, there is a trade off for tenure and more pay: more effort and more contribution to the school community.

Does this sound subjective? You bet. But equity isn’t fair to our clients (students) if every teacher is granted the same access to autonomy and reward at the same time regardless of readiness. And yes, you also read right: that there is a salary scale to climb. After all, if a teacher busts her butt then she should be paid as a butt-buster, but if a teacher does just fine (no more or no less) it doesn’t need to be job-threatening, it just can’t be automatic reward.

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Whew! I took on a lot. Is this the future? Who the hell knows. But I do know this. Things must change at many levels. The credential process must change. Credential program quality must improve. Funding sources must shift. Antiquated philosophies about teaching must evolve. Our salary scale must reflect our effort. Different paths must exist to reach a credential. And teachers must once again believe that they are each worthy of their own Chiron Award and all it represents. Only then will the quality of teachers improve. Only then with our students improve.

What classes would you like to see offered in your fantasy future teacher prep program?

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