Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Are you my Mentor?

In John Merrow's book The Influence of Teachers he compares teacher training and nurses' training.  He says something about how the nursing profession is more highly regarded than teaching, because no one would ever take someone who'd studied political science at Dartmouth, give him a summer's worth of training, and then allow him to go become a nurse.

Since I became a teacher through one of these crash course summer trainings, I can't say that I disagree with them completely - but it is crazy to think that just because one attended school as a student that one has the skills necessary to run today's most difficult classrooms.  Yet, are 4 year college programs really doing a much better job than the summer crash courses?  I've never been through a 4 year education concentration program, but based on today's dire circumstances, I assume that teacher training programs could - across the board - improve.

So... what do I think a teacher training program should look like?  Well, I really like the Teach For America model where you teach for 1 period per day, receive feedback every time you teach, lesson plan in groups, and attend classes when you're not teaching.  I wonder if simply elongating the process would help teachers leave training programs better prepared to teach.

I got a degree in biochemistry, and I'd say I was very ill prepared to become a biochemist.  I would have needed to spend a lot more time in the lab, earning my PhD.  What's the difference between becoming a biochemist and teaching?  I guess I would have spent my time in a lab under a professor, who would spend nearly 6 years guiding me to my independence as a biochemist.  Meanwhile, I would be doing work to support the lab - benefiting my professor as she imparted her knowledge to me.

Teaching - during college as well as the "graduate" part of the program during someone's first few years on the job - clearly doesn't provide effective mentorship.  I've been asked to mentor other teachers before and I simply can't do it well, while running my own classroom.  There needs to be something better in place than just saying one teacher is another's mentor - with no training, benefit, or oversight.  It seems natural that becoming a mentor teacher - teaching significantly fewer classes throughout the day - and working as more of a manager - with higher pay - would be a next step/promotion after being a full-time classroom teacher, with kids all day.  Has any school district tried something like this?  A structure with a principal and then a set of master teachers who teach maybe 1 or 2 periods per day and spend most of their time observing, providing feedback, and mentoring all of the other teachers in a building?  Is this too much of a business model?

No comments:

Post a Comment