Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Your Education: What Do You Think?

"Teach Your Teachers Well", an Opinion Editorial (Op-Ed) in today's The New York Times, offers advice on preparing teachers. Read through the editorial to see if you agree with the points. Let us know what you think. Basically, its author, Susan Engel, addresses: the poor quality of teacher education preparatory programs, the dearth of teacher preparation programs at high caliber institutions of higher education, the less than rigorous coursework required in one's content area to be and continue to be a teacher, and the lack of sustained mentoring for new teachers. Even the present system of student teaching is under attack. Engel claims student teachers are observed merely twice and not sufficiently mentored. What has been your observations and experiences of how teachers are prepared to enter the classroom and continue to be outstanding teachers? Do you agree with the points in the editorial? With which points do you differ? As for Engel's credentials, The Times notes she "is a senior lecturer in psychology and the director of the teaching program at Williams College."
Photo of Susan Engel from her faculty page at Williams College.


Amy said...

I absolutely loved reading this article!! For someone who is a graduate student and currently not a teacher, this really intrigued me as a reader. I find it very interesting how an article like this can be published without any current changes to the way education is run.

Susan Engel discusses many significant elements towards future educators' careers. She explains that like surgeons, beginning teachers should be in school systems working with an, "intensive supervision in a real setting with expert mentors". The state should be providing incentives for pubic schools to hire newly prepared teachers and teachers should be given a 3 year stipend while they work in Public Schools.

It all just does not make sense to me. I am going through the program right now, and actually finishing this semester. I am student teaching this spring and then I am out on my own. I do not feel that I am completely ready to explore the teaching world on my own. I pray that there will be wonderful mentors and team members to assist me while I adjust to the new setting. However, I feel as though if I was working in a school system all along, then there could be a slight chance that I would not feel so timid and uncertain with myself.

Engel provides the readers with significant reasons for changing the way educators are being educated. I also find it very challenging and frustrating that people, like educators (teachers) tend to have lower salaries than that of people who work for other corporations or businesses. If we want better schools and teachers to help "teach" future teachers, I feel as though we need to up the pay teachers make. It only makes sense; our students are our future!!!

Jen said...

I completely agree with this article. While I have enjoyed my classes at St. Joseph College and learned a lot, the best experience during my graduate career was during my internship last year. I was a building intern in Bristol. Everyday I worked in the same school (sometimes I moved to different schools in the district) and was able to have hands-on learning. Not only did I get to observe teachers in grades K-5, but I was also able to substitute in each grade. I felt a part of the school community and truly enjoyed the students. I loved being able to see real-world application of all the information I was learning in class. I would recommend this program to every graduate student. I feel much more confident about my student teaching experience because I was in the front of the room everyday last year, learning about how to teach students.

I hate that schools think that just because a candidate went to Harvard that they are more prepared than I am. I feel I have received a good education here and I would change my education. I only hope that one day people will recognize how great other colleges can be.

Gina said...

One very good point from the article is that at the secondary level, I no longer need to take any math classes as I prep to be a teacher. I find this remarkable since there is so much in math that could benefit my students and me(how about a grad class in fractals or on conic sections - good topics for study!)

I do believe that our society thinks that anyone can be a teacher and that you just have to show up. It is no longer a prestigious job and as a result, I was discouraged from being a teacher when I was in high school. And here I sit today having my mid-life change. I agree with Jen that internships are invaluable (much like a doctor has hospital rotations). I have loved most of my time at St. Joe's but I also have a lot of experience working with teens as a Youth Minister. Would probably not feel as confident if I emerged with just student teaching/observations.

Lilly said...

I agree, this article brings up valid points about how new teachers are not supported and the standards by which teachers are held accountable for are low. However, the anger seems to be focused on the education system when the real issues lie in the community that funds the education system. The reality is that without money, the great ideas presented can not exist without major financial contributions to education from the community. The reasons why these problems exist is because there is not enough money in education. The public demands high quality educators, but tax payers are not willing to pay for them. As it stands, there is not enough money to put paper in the copy machines, let alone increase teacher salaries. Mentor programs would require additional staff (additional salaries) because there is simply not enough human resources that can provide frequent quality support for new teachers.

carrie said...

Yes, Lilly, you are right. It does all come down to money. Engel states that new teachers should be paid a stipend for their first three years while learning. That would be ideal!! (What I do want to say is, "Yeah right!) But it is unrealistic. There are no funds. Teachers are praying to keep their jobs! Where would this stipend come from? This leaves me hoping that the right kind of people get into teaching for different reasons and those are the people who do not do it for the money. Even with an education from Harvard, you can't teach a person to be an amazing teacher if it's just not who they are as a person.

Furthermore, Engel says that future teachers in education programs are forced to waste time on learning how to write a lesson plan when this skill is typically something they will not use. I highly disagree! While most teachers today teach without a formal lesson plan, it's the formal plan in their heads that guide them. Without this, lessons would not be linked to the standards. We need the standards to shape our teaching so we can mold valuable citizens. The constant drilling of this 'formal lesson writing' is what keeps us teaching with integrity later on.

Kim G said...

I agree with Lilly in that education is lacking necessary funds because the taxpayers won't support it. And her comment about not having paper for copies is all too familiar...and it's only November.
Susan Engel brings up some interesting and controversial points in her article. The one that I found most valuable and in alot of cases very true was when she stated, " Teachers must also learn far more about children: typically, teaching students are provided with fairly static and superficial overviews of developmental stages, but learn little about how to watch children, using research and theory to understand what they are seeing." Many teacher prep courses discuss differentiating instruction but unless a teacher is able to "read" the learners and know developmentally where they are at in their learning (regardless of grade) and how to instruct them at an individual level, then differentiation does not happen correctly. I have worked with several universities and their student teachers, as well as mentoring a new teacher, and it is rare that these beginning teachers know how to differentiate instruction correctly or why the differentiation is needed. Differentiation is not something you can learn in a textbook. You need on the job support and training. In order to be a better teacher you really need the types of hands-on experiences with an excellent mentor that Engel suggests in her article or the types of internships that Gina and Jennifer spoke about.

Scott Kossbiel said...

I am with Amy in that I loved reading this article. I am a professional development junkie, for better or for worse, in that I treat my job like a professional athlete. I am always trying to get better, even after my best days. I can be overly critical of myself, but all and all, it is what makes me get better. I can also say the same for m mentor teachers, in that I wouldn't be as successful as I am today without those who came before me, took me under their wing, and pushed me along. It is truely a great profession that needs work at it!

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