I never thought I was one to write prose, but with the completion of my latest manuscript (Hobble Creek Almanac) and beginning the submission process, I really don't want to expend my energy trying to write new poetry right away. So, instead of trying to turn off my need to write altogether, I decided to redirect my writing energy into a prose project.
I had a choice when it came to choosing something new to write, and I certainly did not want to simply try to write about poetry. Not only is that cheating in some ways, literary criticism is exhausting work for me. Besides, there are plenty of poets out there willing to talk about poetry, telling the world why one poem succeeds and why another fails. So I chose the other area of competence in my professional life to write about. I am in the beginning stages of writing a book for prospective and new teachers.
The book I have envisioned and have started to write is one of an informal, conversational tone. Too many books in my opinion within the education community talk from a place f authority. Sort of Listen to me because I have a doctorate in education. Well, one of the things I never really liked about the people teaching me in my master's program was the amount of time they actually spent in a classroom (either at the elementary or secondary level) before moving on to teach college and prospective teachers. Many of them were only classroom teachers for 4-5 years, and by the time they begin to teach new teachers, they have been out of the classroom for another 4-5 years. Still, they act as if nothing ever changes and for the rest of their careers, they are teaching as if time has stopped.
You see, I have a few ideas about teacher ed programs.
1. Universities should encourage their education departments to be filled with a faculty who have taught at least 15-20 years in the public school classroom. Instead, they require only 3 years experience. Instead, they are worried about their terminal degree percentages. A few things: Teachers who want to get out of the classroom after three years are the teachers you don't want teaching prospective teachers. Teachers who have 15 years experience in the classroom are vastly more suited to teach prospective teachers, regardless of a Ph.D. They are the teachers who will tell the next generation of teachers what to realistically expect.
2. Universities should work with content area departments to teach the methods courses, first locating teachers with real life classroom experience. It always amazed me the man who taught me methods of teaching social studies was a professor who was brilliant, but had never actually taught high school. That's right. A professor of English, or history, or biology, can actually teach the methods course without actually having any teaching experience in the public schools system. As yourself what method do most professors use to teach. If you answered "lecture" you are absolutely right. The fact is while lecture has it's place, and I use it a lot, it cannot be the extent of the method a teacher uses in the classroom.
3. The majority of focus education programs have in fostering new teachers should be in the areas of classroom management, varied instructional methods, and effective lesson planning. I don't know where I would have been if I had not been in the army before I became teacher. My university gave me one classroom management class, and I know they have a lot of ground to cover, but my course focused on seating charts, creating a syllabus, and time management. We read a chapter or two about different theories of discipline, but it was little preparation for the vast array of issues a new teacher faces in the classroom.
4. University Education faculty should be forced to co-teach with a classroom teacher one semester every five or so years to refresh themselves with the realities of the classroom. And I don't mean mentor a new teacher in the classroom or supervise a teacher. I mean co-teach. Plan lessons, lecture, create learning activities, write and grade assignments. Everything.
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I have written just under 10,000 words so far, and I plan to write between 40-50,000 word in total. Right now I am writing the framework of the chapters. I am going to insert anecdotal evidence in the various chapters and do my best to reinforce the conversational tone. I envision a short book prospective teachers can read as part of their own curiosity rather than as part of some kind of curriculum. I want to eventually set it up as a Kindle Edition through Amazon and sell it really cheap. I want new and prospective teachers to hear about what really happens in a high school without theory getting in the way. I want new teachers to be able to have some advice as o what will help them to avoid many of the pitfalls which are waiting for them as they enter the schools.
That's what I am doing right now.