What are education programs really teaching our teachers-to-be?

In a recent conversation with a fellow educator, I learned that the evaluator from the university’s teacher program had docked the teacher trainee for-wait for it-student collaboration. He did this on the first evaluation and then in this latest evaluation docked the teacher trainee again and added a “talking to” about having too much student collaboration. To clarify, his “too much student collaboration” was not implying that the students were too talkative or off-task. The lesson called for learner collaboration. In addition to this, he suggested that the trainee get a whistle or bell so that they may blow it 2-3 three time or ring it 2-3 times to get learners back on task. Mind you, this trainee is student teaching juniors and seniors in an advanced high school math class. I personally abhor these tactics, but to suggest this for any high school class is absurd. Students would not respect this tactic in any way; lowering their respect for the educator. Now, in younger grades; while I would not use a bell or whistle, I have observed tactics like: “Clap one if you hear me? Clap twice…,” or “1-2-3, Eyes on me,” or turning of the light/changing color of light to get attention and communicate the noise level is too high. I understand that these are necessary and a part of classroom management. In high school, consistent classroom procedures are necessary, but I believe it is all about the classroom environment and relationships that gain students attention and respect to behave according to expectations.

I have also experienced with my student teachers over the years ridiculous form lesson plans that were all about the paper work and not modeling backward thinking or solid lesson structure like the 5E Model. I show every teacher I mentor the 5E lesson model and used it to design my iTunes U course. Lesson models like these, are imperative for imparting to trainee teachers the full circle of instruction from the hook to the assessment. Through all the mentoring I have had the pleasure to be a part of, I have never seen the use of a solid lesson model in the required lesson planning document by the university or teacher training program. These requirements were all about the state standards, the objective, resources, lists, etc. They have never been about the learner. Yes, we have to abide by curriculum standards, but we wouldn’t have said standards if we did not have children to teach. I’m not understanding why the learner is not at the forefront of preparing and training young teachers to be educators. Priorities are so out of place in education. It comes down to the fact that policy makers and government institutions do not include educators in their discussions on education reform. It’s all about power, lobbying and the all-mighty dollar. Never is a team produced that have a common goal and work to no end on achieving that goal. Without this common goal and vision, there can never be a solid vertical alignment through the educational systems.

Thank goodness that typically the best of the best are asked to host a student teacher and show them the truth in education and model what is important like the educator working with the previously mentioned student teacher. This educator calmed the tears and made it clear that learners collaborating is a very important part of instruction and that they are not doing wrong. In addition, after the student teacher is done and cannot be affected by this evaluator, I would contact the university with my concerns. If it was affecting their graduation or passing, I would make contact with the program’s director immediately.

This is such an easy idea – leaners are the center of all instructional design of any educational institution. And it becomes such an overwhelming challenge to make good policy and reform. I am so thankful to have a wonderful team in which to collaborate, to work in a district where educators are autonomous and are allowed to take risks and to get inspiration and good vibes from my Twitter PLN. I can smile in spite of…

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