The Problem with Teacher Ed Programs.

Man, that is a bold title, right?  You’re probably thinking, “Girl, you are silly for even starting this.”  Okay, well maybe I am the only one who uses the word girl like that but you get my drift.  So here is my advice, read this post then disregard it as the ramblings of a first year teacher, k? thanks.

Here it is, in one sentence: There is no differentiation.

Alright, there’s a little depending on what subject you are going to teach but past that we all read the same readings.  We all did the same essays.  We all researched the very same shit.  Some of it is REALLY GOOD shit.  Some of it just shit. I’m gonna point out about five different people from my credential program:

1. Dude, mid 30’s, wife and three kids.  Has been teaching private school for 3-5 years (I can’t remember). He has his own private tutoring company.  He wants to coach a sport at a big school.  He intends to get his Phd already and he hasn’t even finished the credential program.  He knows his goal is to be a principal in the long run.

2. Lady, late 20’s, has a degree in counseling.  She was actually the counselor at my mother’s school for a couple of years and now has decided she wants be in the classroom.  She wants to teach math.

3. Girl, straight out of college.  Going in to this with experience teaching (like a TA) college students and some volunteer hours in a high school.

4. Dude, mid twenties (totally reads this blog so HI!), has a degree in hotel management with a minor in math and has just decided to go back and be a teacher.

5. And me, 24 straight out of college with more experience with kids than I know what to do with.  A mother who is a teacher and more ed philosophy then one person should have at that point.  (not to say I knew/ know nearly enough)

But here is my question… How is it even remotely possible that the same process is needed to make #1 a quality math teacher as it is to make #3 ?  How can we even assume that #2 needs the same amount of information about running a school than #4?

We all came in to the program with some goal, long term or short.  To be a teacher, to be principal, to change education, to work with in the public school system, to work outside the public school system.  How can the same readings accomplish what each of us needs?

Now, I understand that teacher education is a business.  This is making money for the college but I am starting to believe that in the economy as it is we have an obligation to take a person that wants to be a teacher and find out specifically what they need to (quote the army) be the best that they can be.

How is it even remotely acceptable that any school right now is putting out anything but the most prepared teachers?  How many teachers do you know who stumbled through their first years because their program really didn’t prepare them for actually teaching?  How many teachers have you heard say I learned it all my first year?

Alright so here’s my thinking:

1. accept less people: there aren’t jobs.  stop turning out so many effing teachers.

2. spend time really getting to know the candidates.  novel, right? but how much better do you think teachers would turn out it you focused on boosting their skill right where they are weakest?

3. set them up with a mentor.  I may have forced Dr. Lawler in to being mine but everyone should have one.  someone who not only works with them all they way through their first or even second year.

4. let them research, in my cred program we had to find a total of 1 reading on our own everything else was assigned to us.  i just watched Shawn Cornally’s TED talk and he mentions that we as adults don’t trust kids.  Don’t worry Shawn we don’t trust other adults either.

5. SAY NO.  Some people shouldn’t be teachers, others aren’t ready.  You are professors of education every once and a while you should straight up say no.  Don’t send people in to the classroom just because they completed the necessary assignments.  That does not a good teacher make.

This is not in anyway an attack on my credential program. I loved A LOT about my program. I just wonder if we couldn’t do it better.  I wonder if maybe there is something missing.  I guess I am just wondering if all 5 of us could have been better served by looking at us as individuals and not as a group.  I am wondering if maybe teacher ed should employ more teaching philosophies in the way it teaches teachers. Maybe we don’t all need the same things?


9 thoughts on “The Problem with Teacher Ed Programs.

  1. If nothing else, going in to my own teacher ed classes I thought, “Well, here’s a class of meta teachers. So, this class will be run so awesomely!” I mean, model best practices right? We’re meant to differentiate and do different things with our own students in the classroom, but these college classes were the same old stuff and all on a similar mediocre level.


  2. As one who ended up not sticking with teaching, but has spent a significant amount of time thinking about the two years spent pursuing it, I agree wholly. Realistically I see myself as being better off working as a scientist as I am now, but think that had there been a demand for physics teachers as advertised or had the ed classes been less generalized for people and more akin to the things I really needed I think I would have been more likely to teach.

    I think I was an alright teacher, but had our program been better I believe I could have been amazing. The kids you teach are lucky to have one that really cares like you do.


  3. I would have to agree and for the most part this is my number one complaint with most professional development. I know for me I do not prefer to learn in a classroom setting. I have really enjoyed my online schooling for that purpose. I could move through it more quickly than most programs and It was competency based. It was just what I needed.


  4. What a Jerry Maguire moment.

    I think your differentiation is kind of addressed by the long term apprenticeships being tried out in the Boston area. But also keep in mind that part of the standardization in teaching programs comes from NCLB & their definition of highly qualified.

    Also, I’m with the others who think that teacher training programs should be doing more to set new teachers up with the blogosphere and twitter for continuing PD.


    1. so i’ve ummmm never seen jerry maguire. so I totally miss the reference.

      I am also all about hooking teachers up on this (internety) stuff but i think there are about 3 of us for my program of 30 who are around at all and my teacher drilled us on it.


  5. Full disclosure – I teach in a school of education. And I agree that we need to be better about walking the talk when it comes to differentiation (and inquiry and …). Part of this would be addressed if we had more practical experiences (like a lab school) where preservice teachers could learn firsthand what is required to be an effective teacher.

    With that said, as Stigler and Hiebert point out, this is a cultural issue not just an instructional issue. Often, when I try to implement promising practices in my education classes, I face resistance from students who expect classes to look a particular way. They complain that they are paying good money and want me to lecture more so they have to discover less. Fortunately, I am tenured and have an administration that is on the same page so these complaints are noted but without consequences.

    Still, I have wondered if I do these students a disservice because I do not meet them where they are at. What do you think?


    1. Alright, so I have two answers.
      The first is there is a fine line between treating candidates like children and adults and I am super glad I don’t have to skate it. good luck.

      The other is tell them to suck it up. How many times have we all heard students say, “I don’t want to think.”? Well, neither do teacher candidates. TOO DAMN BAD. I can’t even tell you the number of times I got mad at Lawler for not actually answering the question but you know what? I now find myself doing the same thing and it’s okay. It’s okay to be angry sometimes. It’s okay not to have an answer till you try yourself. all of that is fine if not good. Let them struggle. It suck but too damn bad.

      (again, just my thoughts.)


  6. Ha! true for professional development too.

    I have been lucky enough to work in small “boutique” programs, so I can adapt and differentiate for my students. I also have advised folks out of the profession on an almost annual basis. I see the signs: they light up when we do math problems together and tune out when we talk about kids. I actually got a thank you note last year from a student who is now (very happily) an actuary.

    So, just like with anything having to do with teaching/education, it’s not all bad out there.


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