The Gateway

Earlier this week, I blogged about war simulations in the Mojave. Elaborate (and $) = understatement. But the military also use cheap off-the-shelf simulation products, like X-plane. By contrast, most teacher prep programs do no simulation, cheap or expensive.

Usually the training ladder has 2 rungs:

1. A lot of theory with a bit of role play 2. Real action: Student teaching

I suppose some would argue that the student teaching is "simulation." But it's not. The kids have real stuff they're supposed to learn. They're graded. Often the novice is taking an experienced teacher away from the kids.

Last year, with our first cohort of teacher trainees, we tried this 4 rung model:

1. 250 hours of tutoring (not teaching, but not simulation either; not sure how to classify) 2. A little theory with a lot of role play; to push our trainees, they're evaluated on each such simulation 3. Real action: Student teaching, but in pairs (spring) 4. Real action: Student teaching solo (summer)

This year we added a 5th rung:

1. 250 hours of tutoring (not teaching, but not simulation either) 2. A little theory with a lot of role play 3. New simulation: Gateway 4. Real action: Student teaching, but in pairs (spring) 5. Real action: Student teaching solo (summer)

The Gateway: We hired our own high school kids. We set up 6-minute "classes" with 10 real kids in each one. The kids misbehaved (small stuff), following various scripts. They took it very seriously.

We were trying to trigger the sort of mis-calibrated responses common to rookie teachers, before they started "real" student teaching (and created real consequences).

For example, under Gateway duress, one trainee would get an irritated edge to his voice when he corrected kids. Which the kids duly noted in their evaluations (they'd do a short eval after each simulation). Another trainee would "over-correct" -- a nervous mini speech to a kid when a single word or consequence would have done the trick. Things like that.

Two experienced coaches scored each simulation. The low score was tossed out. We averaged the other 3. If you were below the bar, we delayed student teaching by a few weeks. Roughly a third were below the bar.

For those folks, we put them into intensive coaching. It was run by Orin (our main man) plus a couple of remarkable teachers, one from Roxbury Prep Charter School and the other from Prospect Hill Academy. The payoff was noticeable at their next Gateway. Was it sticky? Or will trainees revert to bad habits? We shall see as they ramp up student teaching.