NY Times: Teach your teachers well

This morning’s New York Times features a provocative Op-Ed on teacher training programs. If you were a teacher, how would reading this make you feel?

Our best universities have, paradoxically, typically looked down their noses at education, as if it were intellectually inferior. The result is that the strongest students are often in colleges that have no interest in education, while the most inspiring professors aren’t working with students who want to teach. This means that comparatively weaker students in less intellectually rigorous programs are the ones preparing to become teachers.

I am not sure that bashing the rigor of teacher training programs does anything to advance the author’s suggestion that the profession should attract students with better academic records. Instead, we should create policies, programs and compensation schemes that will convince the best and the brightest that we will give them respect and a decent standard of living if they choose teaching as a career. The piece does, however, go on to make some great suggestions, such as:

  • Spend “less time studying specific instructional programs and learning how to handle mechanics like making lesson plans,” and instead encourage prospective teachers to continue studying the disciplines they want to teach – “It makes no sense at all to stop studying the thing you want to teach at the very moment you begin to learn how.”
  • Take a page from programs that train therapists, which encourage students to videotape their sessions and go over their work with mentors and peers. Similarly, “young teachers need to record their daily encounters with their classrooms and then, with mentors and peers, have serious, open-minded conversations about what’s working and what isn’t.”
  • Help prospective teachers learn “how to watch children, using research and theory to understand what they are seeing,” because disregarding “the developmental needs of our students  it’s unlikely we’ll succeed in teaching them.”
  • Finally, hire new teachers in groups of seven or more. “This way, talented eager young teachers won’t languish or leave teaching because they felt bored, inept, isolated or marginalized. Instead, they will feel part of a robust community of promising professionals. They will struggle and learn together.”

One response to “NY Times: Teach your teachers well

  1. Thank you for this interesting post. Teaching has never been a prestigious profession in America and pay scale reflects that. Too bad our society places teaching at or nesr the bottom of the heap with 6 years of college. Teachers get plenty of lip service for their selflessness and noble pursuit, but they are scorned in academia, and only overcome that stigma if they go on to become part of that academia or become high level administrators.

    I’m sure that every person with an successful history of education can look back and name one or more teachers that inspired them as young students. Too bad more of them don’t choose to give back to society. This is particularly true of minorities that rise from rags to riches. We need more African American teachers as role models and mentors.