Monday, May 19, 2014

An Alternative to America's Archaic Teacher Education System

Although one should always take statistics and standardized test scores with a grain of salt, the numbers indicate that US students get less out of public education than they did in 1980.  Several factors contribute to that, notably the life sucking increase of federal involvement.  It is possible, however, that those aspiring to teach are less prepared than ever.  Also, the rising cost of college education combined with rising student debt price many candidates out of the profession.

What's the answer?  Replace most of current teacher education with an apprenticeship program.

West Virginia University, in an effort to try and improve teacher education, put together a five year program.  It combines the heavy weight of endless education courses with more opportunities for the aspiring teacher to actually learn about what they are going to teach.  This is a considerable improvement from the content light programs in the 1990s.  Except, of course, that a five year program means that much more debt following the teacher into their low paying profession. 

A better alternative could be the following:

Aspiring teachers take 66 hours for a two year degree.  Three hours of educational foundations, three hours of an education course about the age group they will teach.  Six hours of classes outside of their field. That leaves 54 hours worth of classes to learn about their field and any related subjects. 

Next step, apprenticeship.  A junior apprentice would function as a teacher's aide only.  They would grade papers, assist with projects, observe the teacher handling their classroom.   Next would come the senior apprentice stage where the aspiring teacher would get to teach classes under the direct supervision of the classroom teacher.

Once a teacher passes the apprenticeship, then they reach "assistant teacher" status.  The assistant teacher can work as a substitute, at first only short term, later long term.  They would still work as aides when not filling in for others.  An assistant teacher can be trusted to handle and manage a classroom alone and also teach lessons.

Throughout this process, the candidates should be taking approved free online courses and webinars, attending presentations, reading on their subject. 

After that stage, then one would become a full-fledged teacher, ready to design curricula and handle a classroom all year.

What are the benefits?

An apprenticeship could be paid or unpaid, depending on the finances of the school system.  Either way, the aspiring teacher benefits because he or she pays nothing.  WVU boasts that their teacher education program can put a student in the classroom for a thousand hours.  Isn't that nice.  Future teachers can pay for the privilege of helping schools out.  

Apprenticeships put a premium on the real world instead of the theoretical.  Substitute teaching teaches more about classroom management than 40 hours of education courses.  Two courses can teach some basics.  Experience should teach the rest. 

Right now, going to the most pampered and elite schools gives any aspiring professional a mark of distinction.  A broad based apprenticeship system  does the opposite.  Just as a Royal Navy midshipman earned respect by going on the yardarms in treacherous storms, aspiring teachers can earn the most professional respect by going to the schools and the districts that have the most challenges and need the most help. 

Finally, in the epidemic coverage of teachers gone wrong, a system of supervised apprenticeship helps the schools to vet out those who might be considered suspect. The downside is that this can include vetting out candidates who simply disagree with the ideals of their mentors.  But it also renders other potential problems much more easy to spot.

Teacher education in the current climate does not help the aspiring teacher.  Get students out of five years of high tuition and get them into schools where they can learn the craft, help the schools, and help themselves. 

No comments:

Post a Comment