Bulls or Bears: Teacher Prep Changes in Chicago

From Catalyst (independent reporting on Chicago schools):

Local colleges and universities are using millions of federal dollars to revamp training for future CPS teachers. Many are taking a page from alternative certification programs like Teach for America and the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which focus heavily on immersing prospective teachers in urban classrooms....

Principals also said that first-year teachers, especially those in predominantly black schools, lack classroom management skills. New teachers who don’t have urban field experience may go through a culture shock, contributing to attrition, says Chou (Dean of U-IL at Chicago), who helped design the survey.

“The vast majority of the teaching force is white women who don’t know the (African-American) communities, so there’s a cultural mismatch or a misreading (of students’ behavior) that happens early on and it unravels from there,” Chou says.

In Chicago UTEP, students meet several times a quarter to reflect on their own cultural identities and “experiences they have had crossing cultural, racial and class boundaries,” to prepare them for working in Chicago’s schools.

“Our students are entering a system where the children are segregated along racial, ethnic, linguistic, and even class lines,” Matsko says. “We believe that our teachers have to be really aware of their own perceptions of these issues in order to reach and teach students of color effectively.”

Is that really what rookie teachers need? Awareness? Or practice?

Practice. And what sort of practice? What can we learn from Chicago? Da Bears or Da Bulls?

Bull psychology:

Have you considered your options if the bull does charge? A bull has a longer stride than you and has twice as many legs. If you think you can outrun a 2,200 pound piece of meat coming at you at 33 mph please reconsider. Unless the bull is several multiples away from you of the distance you are from the fence, you may have to face it. Take off an article of clothing such as a hat or a jacket or a backpack. As the bull nears throw the object as hard as you can to the right or the left in a horizontal fashion. The bull should follow the target away from you.

Um, okay, so that doesn't really help rookie teachers.

Bear psychology:

If the bear continues to approach as you back away, stop and stand your ground. Speak more loudly in a deep, calm voice, and wave you arms to make yourself look bigger. Keep an eye on the bear, but avoid direct eye contact. Do not be aggressive, but do not crouch down, play dead or otherwise show fear or vulnerability. If the bear charges you, muster all your courage and stay where you are: the charge is most likely a bluff, and if you stand your ground the bear will turn away.

There's something relevant there. Calm. Don't show fear. Stand your ground. But don't instigate/amplify, either. Keep an even tone with the kids. It takes courage. That comes from both mindset and practice.

Rookies wonder why, when they observe skilled veteran teachers, they observe so little misbehavior. It's because the skilled vets tend to exhibit these qualities.