This is an exciting post for me to write because it is the Garforth Education Blog’s 100th post!
I know you are probably expecting a #phonologicalfriday post, but this week it is a special occasion so I have decided to write something a little different. I have decided to write a post I have been thinking about for a while.
Many of today’s teacher education programs are not producing new teachers that feel confident walking into a classroom ready to teach. I remember my peers in the teacher education program feeling this way, I have talked to several teachers who have felt this way and there are Facebook Groups for teachers who feel there was something missing from their teacher education program.
I have been reading books, articles, blog posts about education for a long time and there is one thing that has been brought up time and time again, the fact that Teacher Education Programs are not providing prospective teachers with current information about best practices in teaching.
“The fault doesn’t originate with the teacher; they, themselves, have been robbed in their teacher preparation programs where schools of education gladly took their tuition while largely failing to actually equip teachers” – Janet Jones
There are leading researchers that have pointed to Teacher Education Programs not adequately preparing teachers to teach basic skills such as reading and math. For example, Dr. Linda Siegel states:
“Many teachers are not properly instructed in teaching reading and mathematic skills. Often they are not taught the importance of phonics and phonological awareness. “
For a while, I have been thinking about how I would do things differently if Garforth Education were to develop a Teacher Education Program.
We owe so much to the people who are prepared to dedicate their lives to educating our children, they have some of the most important jobs in the world and it takes special individuals to do this.
I think Teacher Education Programs must do everything they can to make sure these future teachers go into their profession confident in the skills they will need to help our future have the skills they need to succeed.
In this post I will discuss the 7 Core Subjects I would include in a Teacher Education Program. These elements would not be enough for a whole teacher education program, but I feel it would better prepare preservice teachers for what they will see in their classroom.
This would not be a brief overview of the developmental stages historically taught based on 20th-century psychology; it would be based on current theories around the stages of development based on neuropsychology.
It would include the social and emotional developmental stages so teachers can recognize where their students are currently at and where they should be. This would help teachers have a better understanding of how they can help students who are weak in an area develop these critical skills that will help them through life.
It would include the developmental stages of reading development. This would allow teachers to have a better understanding of what skills their students need to work on. It would provide them with ways they can check for the different core skills related to reading development. It would help the teacher realize that if the student doesn’t have the prerequisite skills for what they are working on, they would have to go back to establish these skills before working on the new skill.
It would include the developmental stages related to math development. This would help teachers have a better understanding of their own mathematical understanding. It would provide them with ways to measure what skills their students currently have and what areas they need to address in order for the student to reach the grade-level expectations.
Science of Reading
I think Emily Hanford said it best when she said
“The fact that a disproven theory about how reading works is still driving the way many children are taught to read is part of the problem.”
Preservice teachers would get explicit training in the 5 core components of Reading Science. They would learn how to explicitly teach Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Reading Comprehension, and Reading Fluency.
They would come out of their training with the knowledge of how to teach their students how to read from the beginning, instead of just being taught to do with students who already know how to read.
Some may argue that this is only needed for primary teachers, but I feel every teacher needs to understand how to teach reading because, in their career, there will be students who struggle with reading whether they are teaching kindergarten or grade 12.
Science of Mathematics
Preservice teachers will be taught about the components to Mathematic development so they can understand how students learn about the concepts related to numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, measurement, geometry, and the list goes on.
These teachers would understand how to teach these concepts explicitly to their students and not just how to work on these skills once they have been developed.
Preservice teachers would learn about what Executive Functions are, how and when they develop, as well as how they can support their development in their classrooms.
Executive Functions typically don’t begin developing until the age of 5 and they continue to develop into early adulthood.
If teachers knew and understood how these skills develop, they could both model it in their classroom and have supports in place to facilitate their students development in these areas.
There are several common conditions that teachers should be knowledgeable about because each year they will have students that are affected by them. These include Specific Learning Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression.
Preservice teachers must be aware of the warning signs of all these conditions because many do not appear until children are school age. They also need to be aware of how these conditions can affect a student’s behaviour.
As students get older they can be very creative in hiding their areas of weakness and teachers can mislabel these students as having behaviour issues.
For all of these issues, early identification and interventions will lead to the most effective outcomes for the students.
Understanding these issues and already knowing how to support these conditions in their classroom will give a head start when they have their own classroom.
Individualized Education Plans
Individualized Education Plans or IEPs are documents that are created for students with exceptionalities that need help accessing the classroom curriculum. Many teachers, parents, and administrators dread IEP meetings every year.
Preservice teachers must first understand the IEP process and terms associated with the process. I have worked with several seasoned teachers who still confuse some of the terminologies associated with IEPs.
Preservice teachers must then be taught how to get information on an individual student’s needs from psychoeducational assessments and other formal reports so they can truly understand what the students require to have access to the curriculum.
Preservice teachers must understand that a well written IEP actually makes their job easier and not harder. It will tell them how they can make their lessons accessible to this student and give them the goals they need to make sure this student is able to develop in areas they are weak.
These preservice teachers need experience creating at a least few IEP in their training. They then must use those IEP to create classroom lesson plans that incorporate information from the IEP.
If all new teachers went into their first classroom with this knowledge, I feel they would be better prepared to face the job ahead of them. They will be able to walk in on the first day of school knowing where their students should be developmentally, how science says to teach reading and mathematics, how to support their students’ executive functioning, what different exceptionalities they will come across in their classrooms and how to plan for all their future students.
These teachers would still have a lot of learning to do on the job and through continued education as our knowledge of development and best practices in teaching grows. I hope a program that contains the elements I suggested would reduce the overall stress new teachers feel and help reduce the high burn out rate among teachers in the first five years.