Freshly Pressed today, Kimberly Hursh’s “An educator is born” gave me a lot to think about, both as a teacher and as (hopefully) a future school principal.
In her blog, she poses the question:
“How, then, do you teach teachers how to teach?”
And below is my response to her post in general, but this question specifically:
“After 10 years in a classroom, a Master’s in education, and countless discussions with co-workers and teachers in other schools, districts and states, I can tell you with a whole heck of a lot of conviction that the problem is that new teachers (in general) are not given nearly enough training on managing a classroom. You do not learn in college – even as an education major! – the HOW of classroom discipline and what to do in those situations where many Average Joes would break down and give up. You spend 80% of your time studying your content, the other 20% learning the “brain matter” stuff – critical thinking, cooperative learning strategies, etc. – and then your senior year we throw you into a classroom as a student teacher, which is nothing more than a glorified teacher aide. This is a big problem. The only way a teacher learns how to manage a classroom is by actually managing a classroom. As with most education-related issues, the pinnacle of the problem lies in the fact that the system has not changed in 150 years. Colleges aren’t teaching prospective teachers how to educate 21st century students who can multitask and who can’t sit still for 55 minutes without talking and quietly read a book or ask poignant questions. We didn’t need to teach classroom management 100 years ago because those kids who were able to go to school had parents who would discipline them for getting in trouble at school. This is no longer the case.
Teach for America is a great program IF, and ONLY IF, those teachers are given mentors who will help them manage classrooms full of urban students, as that is generally where these teachers land. And that is generally not the background that they have. The teacher in Freedom Writers, for example, was way out of her element. She made it work, but she is the exception, not the rule. Many people come in to teaching because they don’t know what else to do. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless they are unwilling to do the work that comes with the occupation. Many aren’t. Thus the high turnover rate in new teachers. I applaud you for your reasons behind becoming a teacher. And I encourage you on your path to becoming an even better teacher to talk to as many teachers as you can, share your stories and listen to theirs, watch them teach when you get a chance, and read as much about classroom management as possible. Good luck, and great blog post!”
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