Teacher PreparationDo colleges really prepare a new teacher for the real classroom? Or, is the curriculum merely a general overview of topics? I recently retired, and in looking back at my career,...

Teacher Preparation

Do colleges really prepare a new teacher for the real classroom? Or, is the curriculum merely a general overview of topics? I recently retired, and in looking back at my career, I realized how few colleagues made it to the finish line. In thinking about my college classes, very few helped me prepare (other than academically) for life in the trenches. The most useful course I had was Adolescent Literature which helped me recommend books for my students. Most of what I learned was in the day to day transactions between students-administration-teachers-parents. Is there more colleges could do to prepare teachers?

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engtchr5's profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Colleges are getting better at preparing teachers for "the real world" of teaching. By implementing internship programs, classroom observations, interviews with veteran teachers, and the other tools like modeling used in the college classroom, colleges are better serving teachers than they did years ago.

Also, professors seem more in touch with 21st century teaching methods and strategies than they did before. I have returned to college for my master's in education after a 12-year hiatus from the ol' Alma Mater. I feel that professors are more equipped to handle students' concerns about "real" teaching than they once were. 

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geosc | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Please, someone explain to me why it matters to so many people that their first teaching experience be before rather than after their diploma.  Either way, it takes x number of hours to gain confidence and skill.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I was in the first class of Lyndhurst Fellows at the University of North Carolina back in 1982-83. The purpose of that program was to see whether liberal arts grads could teach as well as people who had gone through the traditional teacher training programs. We were all majors in English, math, and science. It was an intensive, one-year master's program in which we had just enough education credits to satisfy state certification requirements. At the end of that year, we were supposedly Masters of Teaching, but we had no teaching experience. We did observe classroom teachers at a local high school, but we did no teaching per se. The first time I taught a group of students was when I started my first teaching job. I felt woefully unprepared and unready. That's probably the biggest reason why I left teaching after only 2 years--and stayed away for 20 years!

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geosc | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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I looked at a teacher training program about nine years ago.  I decided not to take it.  Part of the reason was that I could see no purpose to many of the classes but conditioning me to accept the government education bureaucracy as correct; to make me a good follower of bureaucratic red tape and mumbo-jumbo; to make me a good bureaucrat.

If I had my own school and were hiring my own teachers, I think I would look for childhood psychology majors to teach the lower grades, for reading comprehension and composition majors to teach the middle grades, and for people who majored in the subject that they will be teaching to teach high school.

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sensei918 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In reply to the question:

As someone who jumped directly from a Master's degree in Lit to an adjunct professor, I'm not qualified to say how prepared elementary and secondary teachers are when they get out of school. I do know that as soon as I got my Bachelor's I became a teaching assistant to a Humanities prof. who threw her grad students into the fire immediately. We had to teach the class at least twice during the semester. This was a great experience and made the leap to a Rhetoric teacher (also given to the TAs) so easy. After that, a class of my own was cake. Doing it is the best teacher.

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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The school placement is certainly where the learning happens! My tutor from my Cert Ed classes was a lovely man, but clearly a failed teacher. He taught us great recipes to subsist on as a poor student, but little else. My learning as a teacher certainly came 'on the job'. As an experienced teacher I am surprised at how little preparation students seem to have for the diversity of students we face in the classroom. I think we should offer more insight into the special educational needs that students face in order to support our teachers to appreciate the challenges they can meet in the classroom.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Elementary teachers are much more prepared in the practical matters of the classroom than are secondary teachers, it seems to me--and that's not particularly surprising.  Their education courses are integrated throughout their academic courses, and they spend a lot of time in classrooms before they ever do their student teaching.

Secondary teachers spend most of their college years gaining expertise in their chosen fields of study.  Education courses are secondary (forgive the pun) to that goal, and they seem to be tacked on at the end, almost as an afterthought.  Things do seem to be better now than when I graduated and started teaching in the early '80s, as I have had student observers in my classroom at several stages before student teaching.

In short, though, and speaking as a secondary teacher, nothing can really prepare one for the daunting task of creating an effective learning environment. A classroom which is disciplined yet relaxed, focused yet not too intense, organized but not rigid, consistent yet individualized, challenging but not overly demanding...and all the other tightrope-walking issues which confront a new teacher. I wish there had been a class (or two or three) which could have taught me about such things--but I probably wouldn't have paid attention anyway.

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marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Teacher Preparation

Do colleges really prepare a new teacher for the real classroom? Or, is the curriculum merely a general overview of topics? I recently retired, and in looking back at my career, I realized how few colleagues made it to the finish line. In thinking about my college classes, very few helped me prepare (other than academically) for life in the trenches. The most useful course I had was Adolescent Literature which helped me recommend books for my students. Most of what I learned was in the day to day transactions between students-administration-teachers-parents. Is there more colleges could do to prepare teachers?

  Teaching is like swimming--you never really learn how to swim until you jump in!  You can stand on the side of the pool and go through the motions; you can learn how to hold your breath; you can learn what to do in books until you're blue in the face!  But, it takes "jumping in" and "getting wet."  That's how it was for me.  All the learning I got was for what and how to teach in theory.  But nothing can prepare you for all those different personalities you encounter in actual students, and all the problems that seem to come up that aren't talked about in books!  At the same time, nothing can prepare you for the joy and satisfaction that comes with the job!

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In general, I have seen few college education programs that give prospective teachers a real-world training for what they are to experience in the classroom.  It is usually theory-intensive (not very practical), and often taught by people who haven't been in a public school classroom recently or at all.  My real training started when I was thrown to the wolves in student teaching.

clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Baylor had us in the classroom at least 2 days a week with our very first education class as Freshman... but serioulsy - doing "reading groups" with a few students in the hall a couple days a week is hardly a realistic idea of what running an entire classroom ALONE is like.

Even student teaching spares the college student from the administrative duties from beginning to end.  It is a taste - but hardly a meal.

The few things that helped me the most were substitute teaching throughout college (at least this prepared me for the real attitudes I would certainly deal with, and how to make battle winning decisions without any student relationships).  Working at a wildnerness camp with juv. delinquint youth was the next best decision I ever made before becoming a full time classroom teacher.

I also think all future teachers should be educated in Glasser's "Reality Therapy" and how to put this into practice in the classroom.

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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I did not do a teacher preparation as an undergraduate. My English professors really hated the education school at the time. They encouraged all of us who were considering teaching to get a bachelor's degree in English, then go to Atlanta or Charlotte or Raleigh where the district would pay the expense of an alternative teaching certificate while we worked full-time.

Best decision I ever made! This was in the mid-1980s. I eventually became a National Board Certified Teacher and went on to earn a master's degree and doctorate. I have risen steadily through the ranks in teaching and administration. I have worked as a teacher trainer for The New Teacher Project training alternative teachers.

New research is indicating that Teach for America teachers' students outperform students of similar demographics whose teachers are trained traditionally.

lynn30k's profile pic

lynn30k | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I agree with the posters who want teachers in the classroom as soon as possible. You really can't do anything with the theory of being in a classroom without the firsthand experience. In classes, what is vital is knowing the subject matter you are going to teach, especially the grade school teachers. I've seen too many elementary teachers that were not comfortable with one subject or another (usually math/science.) For the management and organization, being on the scene is vital!

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martinjmurphy | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I have been teaching quite a few years now and am not quite aware what goes on in colleges to prepare new teachers, but I have seen many student teachers pass through my school.  I think colleges do what they can, but it is almost impossible to completely prepare a teacher.  There are so many aspects of teaching that can’t be taught, including dealing with parents, unsupportive administrators, etc.  The best preparation can be found in having a great master teacher who can coach a student teacher through  all the challenges teachers face today.

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anthonda49 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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My daughter-in-law recently graduated with her degree in elementary education. She spent much more time in classrooms as part of her training than I did. When I was placed in classroom situations, I was always placed with a teacher who had many years experience and a rigid control over discipline. This extra exposure will have to help as noted in post #6.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I must admit that my experience of training and then going on to train other teachers is different as it was based in Britain, but my course was a teacher training course that I took alongside working full time as a teacher, which meant that we were faced with both the theory of pedagogy and then life at the "coal face" of trying to apply it. This really helped and meant that for us in my class of trainees we were always wrestling with application. Maybe a different form of teacher training involving more placements would help?

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