Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Practicum Supervisors Better Get Practical
She was also stopping by today to show me a number of things that she was doing on her practicum. It was truly amazing to see the excitement in her face as she described the amazing instructional techniques that she was using to engage learners in her classes. Within the span of ten minutes, I learned a number of different activities that I will be passing along to our staff, especially around cooperative learning. I was grateful for the ideas that she passed along.
As she has come to the end of her practicum, I asked her a few things about her teacher training program. I asked her what she enjoyed about her teacher training ("the practicum part, and getting into the classroom to work with my Teacher Sponsor"), and what she thought needed improvement ("the in-class stuff--too theoretical, and not practical enough"). Neither of these really surprised me, especially when I reflected on my own pre-service days. And then she hesitated. I pressed her a bit more, and then she asked me to look at the reports that both her Teacher Sponsor and her university Practicum Supervisor wrote. The Teacher Sponsor was positively glowing in her review: positive relationships with students, engaging lessons, outstanding assessment practices, endless volunteering, and o and I was very proud. However, after two or three minutes of reading the Practicum Supervisor's reports, I was seeing red. A couple of quotes...
"Insist that students put their hands up."
"Cooperative learning strategies in class can be very noisy and may need to be avoided."
"The temperature in your class was too hot. You need to attend to these sorts things."
I absolutely wanted to vomit. I asked her to describe the Practicum Supervisor. I will spare the details, but the thing that stood out was that this person had not been in a classroom or secondary/middle school for TWENTY years. Enough said.
I don't think it is a stretch for me to say that the classroom has changed over the past twenty years. And I also don't think it is a stretch to say that the first months of a new teacher being in a classroom are absolutely critical in their development as a future educator. To focus on things like temperature in the class (like we can ever control that other than opening a window in the winter--lots of fun for those sitting by the window in the blowing snow) or the noise level of cooperative learning activites is a total disservice to pre-service teachers.
In helping to educate our future educators, we need to have people that are in tune with today's classroom, and with today's learner. And when I am referring to today's learner, I mean both the student and the pre-service teacher. The focus for pre-service teachers needs to be on creating positive relationships with students based on respect rather than positional authority, engaging learners, being insatiably curious about what they know, finding ways to help them demonstrate what they know, and developing their love for learning. Hands up? Temperature? Noise level during engaging activities? Not so much.
We need to do better for new teachers entering this profession. They deserve it. Our students deserve it.
In other words, practicum supervisors (and teacher education programs) need to get practical, or we will continue to fail our Pre-Service teachers.