When it comes to teaching teachers, critics say few colleges pass test

Donna Blankinship Associated Press story:

Critics say few colleges provide adequate nuts-and-bolts teaching skills such as public speaking, classroom management, and dealing with the class goof-off.

“It’s complicated in the United States because we don’t as a country agree that teachers need much preparation,’’ said Suzanne Wilson, chair of teacher education at Michigan State University.

Educators say much is being left out of teachers’ lesson plans — from keeping youths engaged to leading a meaningful class discussion and using student test data to assess when students are ready to move on.

(Rookie teacher Hemant) Mehta would add to the list: motivating student to do their homework, dealing with parents, reading a teacher contract, using classroom technology like smart boards that are both white boards and giant computer screens, and whether it’s OK to accept friend requests from students on Facebook.

Hmm. The reporter chose a Wilson quote that doesn't exactly lend clarity.

There are 2 issues:

1. Wilson is right that there is a debate of whether teachers need, or benefit from, much preparation.

2. But the other issue is that among university programs which DO "prepare" teachers - like Wilson's at Michigan State- do they

a. "Cover" the right mix of topics? Per the article, Arne Duncan says no. So does the teacher in the trenches.

b. Teach those topics well enough that kids benefit from better teachers? The article doesn't touch on this one.

Oh, wait. I read this wire service story in the Boston Globe. But the Globe cut the story down to fit. It turns out Blankinship has a bit more. I found it at another newspaper.

Grossman describes a step-by-step way to teach things such as classroom management or how to lead a discussion: show videos of good teacher technique, talk about the videos, have students role play to practice on each other and then send them out into the field and videotape them as they practice.

It sounds simple and pragmatic, but many teacher candidates never practice these skills until they enter a classroom for the first time.

What would a parent think if they knew a nurse hadn't practiced sticking a hypodermic needle into an orange and other nursing students before sticking one in her child?

Doug Lemov, who runs Uncommon Schools, a charter school management non-profit based in New York, is sure that teachers can be taught great techniques. His new step-by-step instruction book, "Teach Like a Champion," was an unpublished hit for years, passed out at workshops and sought by teachers who wanted to fill in gaps in their training.

Lemov gets down to the nitty-gritty of classroom life, such as teaching kids to pass papers more efficiently. Lemov figures students pass papers and materials 20 times a day. If they learn to do it a minute faster, their teacher gains 20 minutes of learning time.

I wish these articles didn't emphasize the most banal "practical" teacher stuff, like how to pass out papers. Doug's book has lots of "meaty" moves, including how to cold call all of the students, and how to stick with kids who apparently don't know the answer, in a caring but high-standards way.

Funny. The Globe missed the local angle. Doug Lemov used to be a teacher and then principal at Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School in the Hyde Park neighborhood in Boston.