Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Medical School Model

Scanning the news this morning two articles popped on my news feed attacking teacher training.  The following excerpts are from those articles:

Coursework tends to be long on theory and short on practical training in such essentials as classroom management and how to actually teach specific subjects. The result is that beginning teachers often walk into their new schools with very little idea how to handle and teach a classroom full of kids. (LA Times)

A panel of education experts has called for an overhaul of U.S. teacher-preparation programs, including a greater emphasis on classroom training as well as tougher admission and graduation standards for those hoping to teach in elementary and secondary classrooms.  The panel's sweeping recommendations, released Tuesday, urge teacher-training programs to operate more like medical schools, which rely heavily on clinical experience. (Wall Street Journal)

The truth is you do not become a better teacher unless you teach.  Period.  I can't explain it to a student-teacher and there aren't any single books in isolation or manuals which can explain teaching. You have to do it with some guidance and experienced teachers to talk with, to help you process what went wrong and what went right.

Mostly, teachers today are trained the same way I was trained back in 1991 and in the same way my father was trained back in the 70s.

I've had 6 student teachers in the last 12 years.  Most were very good; they came out of the University of Delaware who requires more time in the classroom than the other local universities supplying us with student teachers.  It is just a fact.  The student teachers from other schools come in stiff, apprehensive, and waste weeks of warming up to the soul of their job.

My first piece of advice to student teachers is to learn to build rapport with the students.  And understand that there is a difference between rapport and being their buddy.  Create great relationships with your kids and you can teach them anything, with anything, at any time.

Technology may change, the family structure may change, and political agendas will change (a lot), but the one thing which never changes is the fact that 12, 13, and 14 year old adolescents will either run through a wall for you and smile or build a wall between you and him/her and avert his or her eyes.

Building rapport doesn't come from a book or classroom lecture.  It comes from practice and being around people.  Young people.  I agree with the statement that teacher training might benefit from the medical school model.  Put student teacher candidates in classrooms more often, make it a part of our culture.  Some will bow out of teaching when they the realities; however, some will become inspired and motivated and flourish when they see these same realities.

The undertone here is The Medical School Model will also attract better people to education.  The current emerging thought is we need to attract more people to education who might be choosing medicine, law, or similar.  Those who are good with the books coming out of high school and throughout college.

The book doesn't make the teacher.  The information in the text doesn't make the teacher.

Lay the greatest text of Algebra down on the classroom floor.  It can't do anything.  It is paper and ink.  A middle school student can't do much with the lifeless book on the floor.

The student and the book needs a teacher's talent to bring it to life.  To make it real.  To help the student connect with the text.  And that all starts with and ends with rapport.

Believe it or not, students don't show up with hands folded, apples on their desk, ready to learn and attack the three days at Gettysburg at 8:00am, the quadratic formula at 8:50am, and the ten rules for comma usage at 9:40.  We'd all like to believe it I guess, but it just isn't true.

What is true?  Rapport and talent.  Both can be taught and developed...with time, experience, and connections in the classroom.  Not in a book.

By the way, can you gain talent for anything from a book?   Can you establish a rapport with a book?

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