About a week ago, several of my tweeps were discussing new teachers, TFA (also known as Teach For America), alternate route to teaching programs, and teacher support and training. As the discussion progressed, someone tweeted that prospective teachers need to complete teacher education programs in order to become proficient in the classroom.
My response to this statement?
One doesn’t need to be an education major in order to teach kids successfully. To the contrary: One needs solid grounding in his/her academic discipline, and relevant psychology courses. At least those of us desiring to become middle school and/or high school teachers.
I continued by saying that many of THE BEST teachers I know (including yours truly) were not education majors as undergraduates. I myself was a Spanish major, with a history minor.
In addition to having a solid grounding in one’s academic discipline, and revenant psychology courses, a prospective teacher needs to learn how to manage the curriculum and the classroom, as well as many opportunities to observe and to be observed, many opportunities to teach, and excellent mentoring.
Five years after earning my Bachelor of Arts degree, which included two years in the classroom at an independent school, I earned teacher certification. I took the requisite psychology, special education, and classroom management courses. I also took a course on how to teach a foreign language to middle and high school students.
However, I think I really didn’t learn how to connect with kids effectively until I attended a five-day seminar at Landmark College. It was entitled, ” Teaching a Foreign Language to Students With Learning Disabilities.” I realized that I really didn’t know and understand until 14 years of being in the classroom. And, I took the requisite education courses. That seminar at Landmark College was truly transformative; it proved to be a significant professional and personal turning point for me.
I was fortunate to earn my graduate in education degree when UMASS-Amherst had excellent faculty and excellent program and course offerings. On the other hand, the central problem I see with schools of education in general is that the curriculum provides no solid grounding in culturally responsive pedagogy. Or any pedagogy, for that matter. Furthermore, there is little training in critical theory, as well as curriculum theory. There is little-to-no exposure to Vigotksy, Freire, Dewey, or Taylor.
Last, many teachers have no grounding in curriculum: what it is, and how to evaluate it. After all, what is curriculum? Curriculum is the creation of experiences that promote learning.