Shouldn’t new teachers already know these things before stepping into the classroom? Shouldn’t all new teachers have connected with an inspiring mentor? Shouldn’t all new teachers have read key professional books? Shouldn’t all new teachers have been exposed to great teaching?
I believe that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes.
However, even in the highly rated teacher preparation program I attended there were many ways of getting around being well-prepared. Also, there was an element of luck.
The required coursework was not challenging. Having completed another major before teaching, I was shocked by the minimal reading required and by the low expectations for performance. I was dismayed when one of my professors pronounced professional articles too difficult to assign. Another professor assured us that reading the class text was optional, that the key points for the exams would be available on an online PowerPoint.
Some of my methods professors were fabulous. They were passionate, brilliant, and experienced. However, I still felt that overall expectations were low, too low. During class too much time was wasted and material was only given a cursory look. We were exposed to ideas and then permitted to move on and forget.
The semester before graduation we were placed with mentor teachers for student teaching. I recall a professor telling us, “Remember, if you do not believe you are seeing good teaching with your cooperating teacher, think about all you can learn about what not to do.” I still cannot comprehend this attitude. Why would a soon-to-be professional teacher accept participating in and learning in a classroom environment like this?
I believe I am ready to teach because of my student teaching experience. My placement was ideal not only because I was placed with a phenomenal teacher, but because I had already had the chance to get to know the learning environment in her classroom. I had already had the chance to get to know her and the students. We didn’t meet once in December and then begin collaborating in January. I visited her classroom twice a week for a semester before I joined it as a student teacher. This extended experience was invaluable.
I was not only lucky in my cooperating teacher, I was lucky in my University supervisor, and I was lucky in the creative and innovative people I met at my student teaching school. What about the pre-service teachers who weren’t lucky at all?
What about the new teachers who weren't able to make up for mediocre teacher preparation classes with a fun, challenging, and inspiring student teaching experience?
What about the new teachers who aren’t prepared?
Will finding a wonderful list of tips online be enough to save them?