How relevant were your education classes--those concerned solely with the process of education, not those which comprised your major area of study--to your actual teaching experience? I know nothing can totally prepare you for having your own classroom, but I'm confident some of us were better prepared than others. My theory is that teachers today will have a much different answer than those of us who got our degrees "back in the day." I'm curious if that will hold true in this microcosm of teachers.
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Although I teach in NJ now, my first job was in PA, where teachers need 24 post-bac credits (within 5 years) in order to obtain a permanent certification. Because I was right out of college and was completely overwhelmed with my new teaching position, I chose to enroll in a Masters in Secondary Education program that was offered right in my district through a cooperating university. It was so convenient, and since the credits were required, my district paid for about 90% of my master's degree.
The benefits: convenience, reimbursement, and the salary-scale bump. (After all, I get the same raise as someone with a master's degree in English.)
The drawbacks: I can't remember anything earth-shattering or particularly meaningful from any of those courses. I actually don't even really remember what they entailed. I was, at times, resentful about how easy the program was. (But again, who was I to complain?! I was a new teacher and was completely overwhelmed with preparation/grading/etc!)
I will probably mirror many of those who posted here. I think my education classes did a major disservice in not focusing on classroom management. I cannot stress it enough that this is something that undermines all teachers to a certain extent, but most first years. I think being able to start building that bag of tricks or backpack of resources that is needed in order to maintain the instructional atmosphere of the classroom is so vital. My education classes sort of denigrated this idea in stressing that the pedagogical content of the courses as well as content was far more important. That kind of screwed me over when I had the greatest lesson plan on the causes of the Civil War, but had no way to get the group of high school seniors quiet after one of them flipped another one out of a desk. Yeah, classroom management would have helped.
One book that I had to investigate on my own and one that I come back to 11 years after my first read was Merrill Harmin's "Strategies to Inspire Active Learning. Great book with strategies that help to build the backpack/ bag of tricks as well as inspire strong teaching.
It's interesting to see how people from different states and countries have such varied experiences. I'm from NJ, and my education classes were so dreadful that I decided to drop out of the program. New Jersey offers an "alternate route" program in which teachers work for accepting districts (most often in inner city areas) and receive their training during the first year of teaching. Even these classes were pretty bad overall--my "favorite" were about classroom management (they leave out the part about how to survive in an inner city school). Anyway, I've found that my most helpful and relevant training comes through workshops that I choose to suit my classroom experiences. I'm just about to finish the Summer Institute with the National Writing Project and the course has been a blast.
In terms of practicality, I can agree with most others here that education courses lacked a lot of the necessary real-world application for life in the classroom. Nothing can replicate the day-to-day realities that teachers must face.
However, I do think education courses are important in at least one regard: educational philosophy and pedagogy. Although I probably would have answered differently at the time I was enrolled in those classes, so much of the good I do in the classroom now can be traced back to the learning theories and research I was exposed to in my education courses. Not a day goes by that I do not make some connection between what I do in the classroom and what I learned then.
Were there a few classes that I believed were pointless at the time? Sure. But I shutter to think what kind of teacher I might be had I not had the opportunity to study learning and pedagogy before stepping foot in the classroom. I'm sure my students are appreciative as well.
I received my certificate in 1992, when it was both easier and more meaningless to do so in my home state of Washington. Today's standards are tougher, but that doesn't always make the classes more valuable. Often it just means there are more hoops to jump through. I'd say about 1/5 of my education classes were worthwhile. They were mostly based on theory instead of practicality. Student teaching was much, much more influential in my preparation.
I never understood how a class can discuss how well theories of education work without having field experience, yet this was the method we were involved with years ago. This is probably why studies show that teachers do not become truly effective until they have at least five years experience.
I don't know where I fit in the continuum of "back in the day" through "today." I got my certificate in 1998.
My education classes were pointless for most of the reasons that other people have laid out here. I really don't think that talking over book examples of classroom management can be of any serious use. I believe that the only useful classes are the ones where you actually get to go and be in the classroom. And even those are only really useful if you have someone to talk to about the experiences.
I attended Arizona State University, and in Arizona there was no credentialing program. We received a four-year degree, with education classes included, did some time in class observation, did our student teaching, all within the four-year time period. My ed classes did little but frustrate me. I remember taking hours trying to write up lesson plans before actually being in the real classroom. That's like trying to explain how to take an engine apart without actually ever having touched one. My real education came from working with students and struggling my first horrific year in the classroom. Sad, but true, and I survived. It must have been okay because I've been teaching for 26 years.
Many of my education classes seemed to focus on designing a curriculum rather than ways to supplement whichever curriculum is already in place. As an elementary school teacher, I was required to take classes like "Teaching Elementary School Reading" and "Teaching Elementary School Science" which taught how to choose materials and design a program, only to be assigned a scripted program once I actually began teaching. For me, these classes had little value. I got far more from courses that taught strategies for working with students on an individual or small group basis.
The courses I found most valuable were those that focused more on child development and learning styles, as they provided a context for what we as teachers encounter on a daily basis.
I was trained in the British system so I don't know if my experience fits into the microcosm of experience in this survey. In addition, my teacher training was far more generic than subject specific, so I had my teacher theory classes with other teachers teaching a massive range of topics from hairdressing to car engineering to Literature. I must admit, I found this really helpful as it made me think through teaching in a much broader context and it really helped us as students think about how the theory applied to our particular context. There were certain areas where we received very little teaching or where the teaching we received was useless: classroom management stands out massively in this category. But then I don't know if this is the kind of thing that you just have to learn how to do by yourself when you get into the classroom.
What we learned in classes was great, but the most learning has come from "hands on" in the classroom. It's like swimming. You can watch and watch from the sides, but until you actually get into the pool and try it, you'll never swim!
The student teaching I did was good in a way, but it wasn't my class and I wasn't there for very long. Now as a regular teacher, I'm permanently there for nine months and I get to know the material, curriculum, and my students very well! In essense, I've learned not only the basic swimming strokes, but I'm now diving off the diving board into deeper water and going the full length of the pool!
Sorry about the analogy, but it seemed to be something everyone could relate to!
The classes that were related to my special ed degree were the most useful. By this I mean the ones that gave me an idea of what the other specialists were doing--the courses in speech/lang. path., counseling, how to score standardized tests leading to diagnoses...that kind of thing. As far as teaching itself, I was working as a special ed TA at the time, and my teaching classes were a specialized program for those of us already "in the field." I got way more from the on-the-job training...it was a good way to become a teacher.
I think that the best classes relating to education that I had in college were those that had real life experience. In other words, we were placed right in the classroom. Overall, I had some classes that were great but I have to admit that I did have some that were a total waste of time and money.
I don't really think that education classes give you any idea of what to expect in the classroom. Part of this is because most of the professors teaching them haven't been in a regular classroom in a long time...if ever. The other part of this is because I really don't think these classes are designed to teach you what you need to know for the classroom...at least not practically. I think the education classes in college are designed to give you a basis for your beliefs and values as a classroom teacher, but actually being prepared comes from what you learn through observation and student teaching, and "teacher" instinct. I've worked with a number of different teachers over the years, and everyone is different because they're different people....you can't teach someone to be a teacher. You can just give them the tools that will enhance their already existant skills.
My undergraduate education classes were a collosal waste of time. But after teaching a little while and getting my masters in straight English, I went back to UGA for my specialist degree. I had to take the majority of my coursework in English Ed. Those proved to be some of the most practical courses I had taken. The professors were very involved in secondary education, doing workshops, teaching classes in the nearby high schools. These courses gave me ideas that I could implement the next day in my own classroom.
But what I really think is lacking is teacher training in classroom management, engaging students, helping them to respect one another. I didn't get much of this type of training. Teaching is an art, and like most arts, there must be some mastery of the craft. Knowledge of subject matter certainly is not enough; neither is creativity in developing lesson plans. Simple techniques such as how to get students' attention, how to deal with students who are not paying attention or are disruptive, how to manage a room of 30+ students so that they all are engaged--much more training needs to be implemented here.
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