Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Does college prepare for teaching?

"The great secret of education is to combine mental and physical work so that the one kind of exercise refreshes for the other." --Jean Jacques Rousseau
I have heard many times from teacher friends that the reality of teaching is not at all what they were prepared for in college. And so I wondered if this question had been addressed on the internet. Check out these links. The first is more general for all occupations and the second is more specific for teacher prep. How does college prepare you for the working world? and this How well did your preservice program prepare you for the classroom? The general answer of the first question from respondents on Yahoo is "it doesn't". According to the eudutopia poll in the second link 81% of new teachers found themselves to be less than well prepared for the classroom.

One teacher, Andrew Packard, wrote a long comment in response to the edutopia poll entitled How My College Didn't Teach Me! It's worth reading. According to Mr. Packard, "Three practicums, Student Teaching, and a Seminar" came last in his university experience. He notes: "This is where you find out teaching is HARD and real hard if your college doesn't properly prepare you!" Wouldn't those lessons be better to learn earlier in one's college experience? According to the Theory of Educational Sloyd, move gradually from the easy to the more difficult. But I'm of the mind that in some things you really don't want to save all the hard stuff for last.

Otto Salomon, co-creator of Educational Sloyd also maintained that learning should move from the concrete to the abstract and you can see that failing to make concrete connections between classroom learning and the reality of teaching is a huge problem in teacher education. In backwards fashion we force the students to dwell on abstractions, and then throw them against an unyielding wall of concrete.

The thing we could learn from this is that even college students are hands-on learners. To sit idle in lecture halls (while checking their facebook pages) is not where real learning takes place. As impractical as it may seem to the present day flock of highly credentialed academicians, students desiring to teach should be given responsibility in the classroom from day one, to learn from real experience as teachers. We do our students and prospective teachers a tremendous disservice in our present arrangement. In a dystopian bargain students get new credentialed teachers poorly prepared to teach, and 50% of new teachers leave the field in the first 3-5 years after having made significant investments of time and money in their college educations. The combined effect is a constant introduction of inexperienced and poorly prepared teaching staff. Oops. Or perhaps a stronger expletive would be more appropriate.

Today the 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students at CSS will continue practicing dovetails.

make, fix and create...


  1. How can people invest four years, tens of thousands of dollars, their emotions and futures into an often fuzzy, sometimes nonexistent conceptualization of what path they would like to follow in life?
    How about devoting a year or even two to hand's on exploration? There used to be some exploration in the high school years but now it is a funnel into college which is a funnel into... what? 20% of us are ready to make a solid career at age 17 or 18, the rest are just trying to keep up.

  2. I didn't know what I wanted to do until I was in my mid twenties. Kids these days have no connection with the working world and so they can no visualize their own futures. Is it any surprise that some young men are hanging out in their parents basements playing video games and can't find work?

  3. Anonymous9:29 AM

    What I learned in college was how to read, write and think at a level that made it possible for me to become a teacher, even though that wasn't the original plan at all. No one I know who teaches thinks the education courses they took were good preparation.