Teacher Preparation - Start with the learner

As I reflect more of the vision of what I was presented with in my teacher preparation and in the courses that I have taught as a professor, the more I realize that although we teach great ideals we really do not spend enough time getting teachers ready for what needs to be done in education today. The practical matters would have been much more helpful as I started my career and I believe our new teachers need a change in focus as well. It took me several years to understand what went on in the classroom was not about me, it was about my students. Everything we talked about in teacher preparation was about me as the teacher and did not focus nearly enough on student needs, growth, or results. I believe that now we are better at explaining those goals to future teachers, however we still have many teachers that joined the profession with entirely different purposes or training.

I think it is essential to respect that teaching has developed into a much different endeavor than what most veteran teachers signed up for. Teaching has evolved into more of a student centered and skill based challenge than what it was fifteen, or more, years ago. Many teachers entered the profession because they were successful in a traditional school environment and wanted to go back to the cultures and values where they excelled and were celebrated. I believe that very few went into this profession knowing that everything was about to change and the spotlight would be redirected to school and teacher accountability. Our best teachers focus on student needs, growth, and achievement - however, it takes many teachers years to understand the craft well enough to focus more on what the kids are doing than what the teacher is executing during the day.

We fall into the same trap as we offer staff development and are often more focused on the topic than advancing the skills of our teachers. As an administrator who has a large responsibility for staff development I am constantly conscious of the fact that the changes we are making in school are very uncomfortable for teachers. Many are not used to being challenged at school within a culture they may have believed was static and unchanging. I have the added task of infusing and teaching technology skills that are fresh to everyone and are received with a variety of acceptance and background knowledge. They keys, to making such staff development work in my experience, are clearly delineated in the text: careful planning and follow-up. Many times I have seen staff development poorly prepared for and constructed with no goals of what will be done with the topic when the training is over. I have never quite understood why assessment and evaluation is disregarded after the time and effort is put into training staff. Perhaps if staff were sure that the topic was there to last, they would take it seriously from the start. If teacher learning and use of the materials and skills were evaluated the school might ensure that teachers and administrators saw the goals through. If the student outcomes were measured we could determine if everything we did was worth the effort that was invested.

It is time to focus on the learner in all settings.


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