What is the best way to recruit and prepare teachers?

A commenter named Laurie Bartlett shared this a few days ago:

Prof,
Is it true that if you have a college degree, are part of a teacher certification program, or pass a certification exam (ESE,ESOL or other), that you can be hired as a teacher in Florida? Do schools or districts have to report how many teachers are part of these programs? Parents assume that the teachers in the class room are teachers, Highly qualified ones as is often stated. It sounds similar to asking, would you want an first year surgical intern operating on your child, or a board certified surgeon w/wo much experience.

While these are all great ways to become a teacher, they do not seem to help make it a profession held in high esteem. I know good teachers of a typical route, college ed program, and alt cert plans.

Which is best for students?

As far as I can tell as an amateur observer of K-12 education, a strong teacher has these four characteristics:

  • A deep understanding of the subject that she or he is teaching
  • A deep understanding of how students learn the subject being taught
  • Well-learned and well-practiced classroom management skills
  • The “it” factor – a sort of classroom charisma that I can recognize but that I will never have myself nor understand

Is there a single scheme for recruiting and preparing teachers that works best for making teachers with those characteristics?

As far as I can tell, the answer is “no”.

The high school physics teachers I know have come through the following routes, and probably more that I don’t know about:

  • Through an undergraduate program that was based in a Physics Department but which was run in collaboration with a College of Education so that new graduates were awarded professional certification by the State of Florida
  • Through an undergraduate program that was based in a Physics Department and funded by the National Science Foundation but with which a College of Education refused to collaborate so that new graduates initially taught with a temporary certification
  • Through the Jacksonville Teacher Residence Program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and which takes new bachelor’s degree grads in STEM fields and gives them a one-year paid “residency” prior to placement in a classroom
  • Through a College of Education-based teacher education program that was not in physics
  • Straight from a bachelor’s degree in physics into a classroom without any educator preparation (and teaching initially on a temporary certificate)
  • Straight from a bachelor’s degree in a field other than physics into a classroom without any educator preparation
  • Straight from a doctoral program in physics into a classroom without any educator preparation

I know at least one teacher who has gone through each of these routes who has turned out to be fantastic – eventually.  (Almost nobody is terrific on Day One, no matter what their preparation.)

And I know of teachers who went through the “right” university-based teacher preparation route who turned out to be duds – even though they had excellent “content knowledge” and excellent formal training in teaching.  They just didn’t have that “it” factor – the classroom charisma it takes to succeed.  And no amount of College of Education-based training could cure that.

The bottom line is that every individual who decides to enter the teaching profession is different, bringing different strengths and gaps to their preparation and their classrooms.  Having a myriad of recruiting and preparation paths is the best way to attract the diverse workforce our schools need.

 

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