Our January Gateway: View From Another Teacher Prep Program

I'm going to be doing some posts about our Gateway process. We made some changes from last year. I'll explain those in a different post. Also, I'll gather opinions of participants and coaches. This guest post was written by an outside observer. First, a quick refresher by me on what happens during Gateway.

We set up 6-minute simulated “classes” with 10 real kids in each one. We hire our own high school kids. The kids misbehave (small stuff), following various scripts. They take it very seriously.

We were trying to trigger the sort of mis-calibrated responses common to rookie teachers, before trainees start “real” student teaching (and create real consequences).

Two experienced coaches score each simulation. The low score is tossed out. We average the other 3. There is a "video replay booth." That is if the two coaches don't agree on the score. Then Orin, our director, breaks the tie after watching on video.

Got it?

Okay, now the thoughts of my friend from the other teacher prep program. She writes:

Many thanks for welcoming us! We so appreciated your hospitality and productive structuring of our visit. We got a TON out of our time with you all and hope you find this memo helpful. The headline: you all are training strong, young teachers.

1. Strengths: YOU HAVE A BRAND! We are confident that 4 months into their program, almost every trainee in the MATCH program has these crucial foundational teaching skills (which is awesome): · Giving clear directions · Stating clear expectation—for posture, behavior, and academic tasks · Narrating compliance and positive behavior · Using a professional tone · Cold calling (and telling students prior to cold calling that they will be doing so) · Using strong teacher radar · Breaking down questions into feasible pieces · Giving corrections o quickly o using silent hand signals o with eye contact o while squaring up and standing still o consistently using “Live in the Now” (e.g. “I need you to…”) · Circulating widely and using proximity for warmth and behavior management

2. Now That The Gateway Is Past, What Must Trainees Work On Next In Student Teaching · Pacing of words occasionally felt slow · Some would benefit from modulating tone more intentionally between giving corrections and teaching lesson · Inconsistent tracking of demerits (i.e. sometimes they wrote ‘em down; sometimes they didn’t) · 99% of the time, “I need you to…” concluded with “…be silent.” Many places where a more why-based conclusion would have helped (e.g. “…focus on the work”; “…respect your classmate who’s talking”; or “…raise your hand if you have a question.”)

3. Gateway Process Strengths · Tight, well-managed protocols and materials · Trainees highly professional (e.g. timely, well-prepared, professionally dressed, etc.) · Impressively efficient decision discussions among judges · Great to have the video review “booth” for close calls · Great to give trainees multiple at-bats · Felt quite real…even when kids giggled b/c of misbehaviors / awkward corrections, that’s real too · Kids like this process and have helpful opinions to share

4. Process Work On · Would suggest including some “points” for positive affect / engagement (e.g. humor, smiling, etc) in the “Voice” and “Body Language” categories in scoring trainees · Kids probably needed a dry run or two before the first trainee began because they were struggling to manage timer, misbehaviors, and materials with first couple trainees · Lots of trainees were getting “40s” (the floor for passing, out of 50); if that’s the aim, great; if you’re looking for more “spread,” you may want to consider the purpose of “50” (and anything below a “30”)

5. Differentiators: I don’t think all of these are represented in your scoring rubric, but here’s what I saw setting the “40+” (more successful) trainees apart from the okay: · Positive, genuine affect · Quick recovery from strict, correction mode back to warm, teaching mode · Ease in front of / connection with kids during lesson · Circulation through more of room than just middle aisle · Small, quiet conversations / check-ins with kids (for good and bad) · Modulating volume of correction and public vs. private nature of correction to match severity of misbehavior · Trainee actively listening to student responses / reading

6. Teacher "Presence" I thought your folks were pretty strong on the presence front. I noted only one guy (can’t remember his name, though), who I thought could’ve been owned by the kids in his room if they hadn’t had prescribed roles and an army of observers in the back.

Interestingly, though, I noted a few folks had a strong rapport and presence with the kids before and after their actual teaching scenario, but while teaching, they seemed less at ease and thus to have less presence.

I think the rubric you guys have developed begins to get at some of the components of “presence” in terms of tone, body language, etc, but there’s still something less component-able about “presence,” isn’t there? Maybe you add some entirely subjective “presence” bullet, too?

I think the kind of practice your trainees are doing is the kind of thing that builds presence in folks that don’t walk in the door with it. I also think watching footage of folks who have it and breaking it down into learnable pieces—eye contact, body language, tone, economy of language, humor, using names, etc—is really helpful for folks who think you’re either born with it or you’re not.

At the end of the day, I think a lot of trainees are convinced (whether they are willing to say so or not) that you can’t learn to have presence. Thus if they don’t already have it, they never really engage in trying to learn how to develop it.

For what it’s worth, I see a similar pattern in folks in our program who are strong small-group instructors but struggle initially in front of our large-group sessions. They say (to themselves or out loud), “This large-group stuff is something you’re born with. Politicians. Preachers. Football coaches. And I’m not them.”

Then they never get good at it.

OR they say, “Hey, I can learn to do this well by figuring out what the all-stars are doing and doing my best to emulate them. I might not ever be Jaime Escalante, but I can get a helluva lot closer than I am now.” Those folks get a lot better. Duh.

This was valuable feedback for us as a new program. I look forward to sharing critiques from others, participants and coaches, in future posts.