Our nation is in a deep need for teachers- great teachers at that. However, as the years progress, less and less educators are entering our pipeline leaving our classrooms without leadership. That creates a whole bunch of new problems that I won’t go through in this particular blog post. Instead, I want to focus on why the teachers we do have are unprepared, or rather underprepared, and what we can do to prevent this problem.
I taught in elementary classrooms for nearly a decade. At that time I also transitioned into a coaching role of new teachers from the elementary level up until high school. New teachers are wet behind the ears and excited to learn new techniques so I truly enjoyed using my classroom experience to help prepare them for their own teacher journey.
A Shocking Reality
As I transitioned into my own consulting role as Always A Lesson, I started connecting with educators of all backgrounds and experience levels through social media. One particular avenue, Facebook, really showcased how big of a problem teacher preparation was through the types of questions educators were posing in private groups.
Many of the questions centered around WHAT and HOW to teach. This baffled me as I couldn’t imagine a teacher getting hired (or passing a preparation course) without knowing what they were to teach and how to do it. It pinpointed the lack of training the program provided to these teachers as well as the lack of support at the school level to answer these questions. Some folks were expected to roll out a new program in their classroom and had zero training on what the program was and how to do it successfully.
It outrages me that we expect teachers to do a remarkable job in an environment without support. You don’t know what you don’t know so how can we have high expectations of someone starting with a knowledgebase of zero? It isn’t the teacher’s fault. Its up to the the leadership of the school, district, and university level to provide this support. Our government needs to get a handle on how to ensure we attract high quality teaching candidates, provide adequate preparation and compensation, and how to continually provide professional development and support so that the bar of effectiveness continues to increase, not decrease.
I am thankful that these teachers are willing to reach out to someone for help so that they can snag a crash course and begin implementation immediately. But that is a survival tactic that will not encourage a long term career nor benefit our kiddos.
A Common Sense Solution
Future educators need…
- significant amount of hours observing effective teachers in real classrooms. If you are on a certification track for K-6, then you need to see a classroom for each of those grades that serve urban, rural, and suburban students.
- opportunities to sit down with expert educators and ask questions, plan a lesson and unit, and meet with parents in regards to behavior and academics.
- enough time in student teaching to truly “take over” a teacher’s classroom in a way that is natural and at a pace that slowly increases in responsibility.
- access to other new teachers in order to find camaraderie and support from others in the same boat.
School and District Level
- a mentor on their grade level or in the same subject area to provide resources, advice, and support for improvement.
- access to appropriate curriculum resources for planning purposes.
- ongoing support from administration that includes documented private meetings on ways to improve.
- opportunities to attend professional development in and outside the district on topics needing improvement.
- proper training on programs and techniques required to do the job.
- at least an equal to cost of living paycheck.
What Educators Can Do
It’s important that educators become their own advocates. No one is going to know if you are feeling unprepared and in what ways you need support. Speak up! When you let leaders know you are in need of direction, be specific about what exactly you need and how you need it. When you bring a solution to the table, it saves time and builds respect between a leader and those that they lead.
Here’s an example:
I noticed you mentioned on my walk-through observation form that I did not implement my small group interventions appropriately. Can you share the expectations you have for this type of instruction so I can be sure to implement immediately? Or can you point me in the direction of an expert educator who can show me what this looks like in action?
Now your leader knows that you have identified an area of needing improvement and took the reigns on how to close that gap. It will do wonders for your professional relationships as well as for your career. It might also uncover an area that the school or district needs to provide additional support to numerous other educators now that you have put a spotlight on it. Leaders need those in the trenches to help spot potential pitfalls as well as be the ones willing to rise up to the occasion and make everyone successful in the process of improvement.
In what ways do you need support and how can I help you?