Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why not teaching schools for teachers?

clickr CC image via foxypar4

Doctors receive real-time training and support from their profession during their internship. This process is generally recognized as an automatic and routine element of physician training. Teachers, on the other hand, if they are lucky, only get a few weeks of practicum experience during their pre-service training, and they don't receive any tangible on -the-job training at all. If internships are good for doctors, whey wouldn't they be good for teachers?

Teacher training doesn't appear to be keeping up with things. The training pre-service teachers receive in university has been under scrutiny at least since I was an undergrad, and things don't seem to be improving. Unbelievably, like I was required to take a course learning how to laminate things and use a photocopier while I was in university, today pre-service teachers are required to take classes learning how to use digital technology in the classroom. It's ironic that teachers in the field are starting to understand that teaching about technology is ineffective when compared to using technology to teach, and the newest teachers among us aren't getting this message in their own training. They should be using 21st Century technology as a tool in their learning. This is just one example of the unimaginative and static hoop-jumping pre-service teachers are required to participate in.

To improve the situation, I believe it would make a bunch of sense for teachers to continue their practicum work during their pre-service training, but to also be expected to work under a mentor for a period of time after graduating from teacher college in what I would call a teaching school. Teaching schools would employ intern teachers just like teaching hospitals employ intern doctors. I see great possibilities to get new teachers into schools where they can begin to ply their craft as apprentices without the high levels of stress and anxiety new teachers routinely describe as they are thrown to the wolves in their first years. I also see great possibilities to connect in more meaningful ways the work that is done preparing teachers in pre-service training, and the real-time, action research-based work that is done in the field. There is such a chasm between the theory teachers learn in college, and the practical use of these theories in the field. We need to bridge that gap.

Doctors intern, lawyers article and even engineers participate in a mentorship of sorts before receiving their final accreditation from their professional governing body. It's time for teachers to do the same if we intend to raise our stake on the professional landscape. A collaborative, three-way partnership between government departments of education, teacher preparation institutions and school boards makes sense to me if we are truly interested in establishing a holistic and effective framework for teacher training and accreditation.
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