The university/school partnership offers opportunity to address many of the gaps that currently exist with new teachers entering their first year of teaching. Local school administrators are in a prime position to communicate the needs and expectations of new teachers to colleges of education. Establishing direct communication between the local school and the college of education result in teacher candidates that are better prepared for the realities of the local school.
Teachers come to school with various degrees of readiness. Certification in a subject area does not equate to being prepared to teach that subject at a particular school. Although teacher candidates should understand the curriculum and know how to write an effective lesson plan, the level to which they are capable of doing so varies widely. As an administrator, I have found that prescreening teacher candidates during the interview by requiring that they teach a lesson and/or bring in a lesson plan does not prove that the teacher candidate will not require professional development to learn simple required instructional tasks. Teacher preparation programs provide teacher candidates with a conceptual understanding of education theory and a general lesson plan format. Upon hiring, local schools need teachers to be able to take their conceptual understanding of educational theory and apply it to numerous alternate situations and circumstances that arise in the classroom. Local school administration need teachers to take their general knowledge of lesson planning and adjust it to meet the required needs or instructional for varying student learning styles.
Teacher candidates need sustained classroom practice to bridge the gap between the preparation that teachers receive and the specific knowledge and experience that teachers need to be successful in their own classroom. This gap is not adequately addressed with one-semester student teaching experiences. Teacher preparation programs who have extended student teaching to year long experience provide more opportunity for teachers to ‘get ready’ for their first year by exposing candidates to significant periods in school year such as opening week activities, state assessments, report cards, remedial courses, etc. However, there is still a need to establish a partnership with local school to help address so critical gaps in the teacher preparation process.
Filling the Readiness Gap
Replacing artificial clinical teaching environments with authentic teaching experiences over the course of teacher preparation program will help fill the ‘Readiness Gap’. An ideal teacher preparation program would include the following:
Introduction to foundational education courses. Teacher candidates assigned to a specific school. Establishing a relationship with local school that teacher candidates will work with throughout their teacher preparation program. Teacher candidate conduct observations of various teacher’s classes and participates in grade level, subject and faculty meetings.
Teacher candidates takes education and content courses where they learn educational theory, how to develop effective lesson plans, and develop content knowledge. Candidates are assigned to specific in-service teachers to develop an understanding of how educational theory is actually applied in the classroom. Mentoring relationship begins before student-teaching experience and last for multiple semesters.
Teacher candidates learn about curriculum mapping, pacing guides and state assessments while continuing content specific coursework and education classes. Teacher candidates complete a six-week teaching experience which is monitored by university assigned faculty member and local school mentor teacher. University faculty and local school mentor work collaboratively to ensure that the candidate actively participate in the planning and teaching of a unit.
Year-long student teaching where teacher candidates plan and teach all lessons and experience opening week activities through state assessments at the end of the school year. Teacher candidate should have the opportunity to practice teaching in a safe but authentic environment with real students. In addition, teacher will experience all teacher duties and expectations, which should include learning about the ways in which teachers are evaluated. Local school administrators are able to provide feedback to teacher candidates about their instructional practice. Regularly scheduled meetings occur between local school faculty and university faculty regarding the specific needs with the goal to offer employment to teacher candidate when possible.
How university/local school part can get involved
Local school principal can make direct contact with faculty in the College of Education at a neighboring university and begin conversation about developing a partnership that would allow teacher candidates to gain experience teaching in their school. Education faculty can make direct contact with local school leaders to establish an initial meeting to discuss the school’s needs and the how the teacher preparation program may be able to place their students in a local school.