Judging from the reaction in her comments, Jenny D. opened up a big can of worms with her post today relating medical training programs to teacher training programs. It sounds like her friend the former teacher entered the profession the same way I did, by taking a variety of method and theory classes topped by a short period of "student teaching" (mine ran one semester). That is a much different path than the one followed by her other friend.
The question at the heart of her discussion is a very good one: what is the best way to train prospective teachers? There are some out there who say that anyone with the knowledge and desire can teach. The only qualification would be that the person has a degree in their subject area and send them in a classroom. Others of us would like to think that there is more to being a good teacher than expertise in a particular area of knowledge.
I’ve thrown this not-so-original idea around in this space before but here it goes again. How about the concept of building teacher training around the medical training model, like the one Jenny’s other friend went through? After getting the subject-area degree, a prospective teacher would enter an intern program in which they team teach with a master teacher and attend training sessions with other interns. That would be followed by a residency where they would have their own classroom but still under the supervision of a master teacher.
A foundation in Colorado is actually spending their own money to try such a system. But it’s not cheap and that’s where the problem lies. People entering a profession lacking in potential monetary rewards are not going to be willing to pay for a two to five year training program. School districts either can’t or won’t finance the costs of such a system either.
The bottom line is that almost all good teachers learned their skills by working with kids in a classroom. The lucky ones, and I suspect the best ones, also had someone to guide and mentor them. A person who was helping them out of a feeling of professional responsibility and probably not being paid for the extra work. If we were willing to cough up the money necessary to formalize such a relationship for every new teacher, I suspect the quality of American education would improve drastically.