Teaching For Tomorrow - The Making of a Teacher
Survival skills, yes - but TC is all about equipping students for the long haul
Each year, some students in TC's Program in Social Studies complain they're getting "too much theory." They want the kind of "classroom management" and "survival skills" training provided by fast-track teacher preparation programs like Teach for America (TFA). In essence, they're asking, "How do I keep the kids under control?"
It's an understandable concern. But our teacher education program is not a quick-entry, quick-exit one like TFA. One-third to one-half of all new teachers leave urban schools after just a few years on the job. Programs like TFA--which has produced only 8,000 teachers, just 2,000 of whom are still teaching--aren't the solution.
Instead, we believe an intellectual as well as practical foundation best prepares our students for careers as teachers and educational leaders. We believe in exposing them to a constant interplay between theory and practice. We invest our knowledge and skills in these fledgling teachers for the long haul. That means equipping them to make not only day-to-day decisions, but also decisions that will help them grow over a lifetime in the profession.
Indeed, teaching is all about making decisions: where to teach, what to teach, how to teach, who to teach.
Our pre-service master's program is designed to prepare educational decision-makers. We give students theoretical grounding, rich content preparation and practical experience. We immerse them in educational theory alongside courses rounding out their knowledge of history, geography, civics and economics. However, they also spend two full semesters in classroom observation and student teaching.
How well are they served? My ongoing oral history research project with the program's graduates from the class of 2000 indicates that they appreciate the wisdom of our teacher education program more fully once they enter their first jobs. Most of these alumni reported feeling better prepared than fellow novices for the many demands of urban teaching.
The students in the Social Studies Program, like those across the College, are bright, ambitious, hardworking and articulate. They could do anything they want with their lives. Yet they want to make a difference by teaching. We are fortunate that such inspiring young (and not so young) people come here; we are committed to offering them something "value added" in return. Alternate routes such as Teach for America claim to provide a better return for the time and money invested. Our experience suggests a different story.
Margaret Crocco is Associate Professor of Social Studies and Education and co-author, with Arthur Costigan and Karen Zumwalt, of Learning to Teach in an Age of Accountability.