Answer the Teacher Prep Critics

I took a nontraditional route to teaching. I’m sure you’re not surprised. After a decade as a cubicle dweller, two untimely layoffs within a year were enough to make me finally take the step I had been contemplating for a long time. With little advance preparation, I took the Massachusetts teaching licensure exam, which, when I passed, earned me a provisional license. Further, I tested to show acceptable curriculum-area expertise in English/language arts and succeeded. This gave me a few years in which I was qualified to teach while attaining full post-graduate teacher certification. I know that on that first day in my own classroom, I was missing a lot of key skills that would make my life a bit less stressful. Years later, my classroom management was still rather lame. But was it such a bad thing to skip out on the four-year adventure of undergraduate education study?

One of the many gale force winds in the hurricane of education reform is the call for strengthening teacher preparation with more intense entrance requirements and revamped, intensified curricula. Nations such as Sweden are cited for the rigorous entrance requirements to their university teacher preparation programs, as well as their pedagogy. Fine, many teachers reply, but look at how well Finland pays its teachers compared to the US. Meanwhile, other voices call for this and more, including the creation of a vocational career path and continuing professional support for teachers similar to that of doctors and lawyers.

All of this, however, much like the rest of the education reform debate, overlooks one key voice: the teacher in the classroom. Pundits, researchers, politicians, bloggers, parents, and even administrators don’t do what teachers do. That’s spending all day everyday with students in the classroom, as well as a whole lot more time planning, prepping, and grading.

That’s why I come to you with the questions that impact today’s teachers. If you took a traditional route to the classroom, how would you rate your college or university’s teacher preparation program? And if there’s something you would do differently, what would it be? On the other hand, if you took a nontraditional route to the classroom, how well prepared do you think you were?


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