Just-In-Time

Ellen Lagemann is the former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I asked her some weeks ago about our masters in teaching concept. She advised:

I'd say your job is: What do they need to know to survive their first year? And given the time pressures on first year teachers, what if the second year of your masters program was entirely on-demand, just-in-time training?

Find the key topics that come up. But don't assign it in order. Instead, let each teacher choose what he wants, and when. Lots of research supports the idea of just-in-time training. That it sticks much better.

Also, teachers need to know how to read research. Because they'll be handed "research" their whole career. Some good, some not. They need basic stats and methodology. You want them to be able to say: "A) Generally, what do I think of this research?, and B) What is its possible use for me?"

How do you avoid calcifying? If you're an institution, you'll calcify. If you want to head off a sense among your team that you've "figured it out", perhaps look at Phoenix University and the for-profit universities. I'd guess they have to change very rapidly to respond to their customers. I'm not sure.

Lots of teacher preparation is context specific. So to the degree you're preparing teachers for similar charter schools, that will make it easier. I'm somewhat skeptical that you can do some of the research you hope to do. Like how to optimally grade English papers, for example, or manage time. Historically that hasn't worked out so well in the K-12 field.

A universal ideal that I think is important: that teachers really fully understand they're teaching children, not subjects or topics.

Yesterday Pru and I had coffee with Mary Sposato, Charlie's widow. She mentioned that her granddaughter has a "cold" first grade teacher and, as a result, the kid isn't bouncing up in the morning to go to school.

We remembered the quote Charlie liked to say (origin unknown): "Kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Funny that the former Dean of Harvard and the greatest practitioner I've known boil things down to the same ideal. Sometimes theory and practice aren't so far apart.