Question: What big idea of 2006 will be extinct in 2036?
Answer: Modern teacher training
That’s according to Peter Wood, Provost of The King’s College in New York City. And he’s quite blunt in explaining why they deserve to go into the “La Brea tar pit of history”.
But after we have sifted and weighed all these contributory maladies, the main problem remains that we just don’t do a very good job at encouraging talented people to become teachers and equipping them along the way with the right kind of preparation. The single biggest cause of the deficiencies in our schools is the risible system by which we train teachers.
I went through a formal college-level teacher training program many back and it was pretty poor preparation for the job. Most of the class work was very much detached from the reality of real life classrooms (as were many of the professors).
But Wood’s assertion that without college preparation new teachers “will learn, as good teachers have always learned, by devotion to the task itself” is a simplistically absurd statement on the other side of the issue.
Realistically, most good teachers learn the nuts and bolts of working with a room full of teenagers (along with a splash of philosophy) through a combination of trial and error and help from the colleagues.
However, if schools of education are going away as Wood advocates, there should be something better to replace them. That something ought to be a comprehensive intern/residency system for beginning teachers, not unlike the one doctors go through.
Learning on the job is one thing. But, regardless of whether they go through a formal college program, new teachers need a good support system to help guide them through the first few years in the classroom.
Without that, we will be seeing even larger numbers of them abandoning the profession than we have now.
And students will be faced with even more mediocre teaching.