Author Alfie Kohn recently participated in a live online chat and answered questions from educators regarding his views on education. Though I was not part of the chat, I’ve been able to read some of the comments thanks to Shelly Terrell’s blog Teacher Reboot Camp.
I’ve worked with a number of pre-service teachers over the past several years, but because this is my first semester with a full-time intern in my classroom the following question and Kohn’s response particularly caught my attention:
Noah Geisel asked, “Most agree that quality teaching impacts student achievement but what makes for quality teaching and how to best prepare great teachers are quite contentious. This especially seems to be the case in looking at traditional teacher prep programs and the ‘alternative’ routes to licensure. What is your ideal teacher prep program?”
Alfie Kohn quote:
The mentor-apprentice relationship as a way of helping people to acquire proficiency in any career is something that is underappreciated in teacher ed programs as is the failure to look at the goals we have. Most schools have Methods courses, but I haven’t seen very many that have Goals courses that invite teachers to look at what is it we are really looking to get here and what are long-term goals for our students. When you don’t address that explicitly and collectively, you end up by default with goals like doing well on a standardized test, which is the least ambitious educational goal I can think of.
So I find that I’m asking myself the following questions:
Do I spend enough time addressing the big picture with my intern? It’s dangerously easy to be carried away by the everyday minutiae: Are the correct graduation exam objectives on the board for the state department visit? Have we filled out the forms for this afternoon’s meeting? But these things are not the job we’re really here to do.
Have I adequately discussed with her the things I want for our students by the time they leave us at the end of the semester? As a high school English teacher, I want our kids to become more effective communicators, both in speaking and in writing. I want them to know how to go out there in the world, gather reliable information, and do something with it. Something of value to them and hopefully to others. I want them to love language, understand how some may use it to manipulate, and participate actively in a world in which the ways we communicate continue to change.
Do the daily lessons in room 176 reflect these things, so that my intern sees how to become a teacher that sets priorities that will serve her students in the long run, or are we fixated on those “least ambitious” goals?