There’s no shortage of stories these days about the difficulties school districts have hiring and keeping teachers. How we can keep new teachers from leaving during their first five years on the job is the focus of an in-depth report in The Atlantic Monthly that follows the careers of three new teachers and asks what, if anything, could we do better to help prepare them for the first years on the job.
Life as a new teacher – In this piece, we see inside the classroom of newly-minted middle school English teacher Michael Duklewski. At 33 years old he’s a career changer who used to be a lobbyist but went back to school at a well-established teacher’s college (Towson State) to earn his teacher’s certificate.
Duklewski’s teaching experience sounds both rewarding and at times pretty frustrating, too. He seems eager to try new modes of instruction to engage his students – staying up late hours developing a lesson plan on monologues using video clips from popular movies (it ends up being a home run with the kids). But he’s regularly clocking 12-to-15 hour workdays just to keep up with the basics of the job, leaving little time to do some of the more ambitious work he’d like to do, such as using data better to track student performance.
It’s all about classroom management – What struck me the most from the article was how much time Duklewski spent managing classroom behaviors, how frustrated he felt about that, and how his education training at Towson State didn’t provide him with the tools he needed to do that part of his job effectively. To his credit, Duklewski figured out through trial and error he should vary his approaches. So a class wide point system works for awhile, then he changes it up when it stops being effective. Or, calling students out for bad behaviors in class in front of peers doesn’t work as well as having a private conversation with them after class. Using praise for students who are on task and working ends up motivating others to do the same. And so on.
The author concludes that in general, teacher training programs for the most part spend little time teaching prospective teachers one of the most important parts of their job – how to manage the classroom and how to deal with inappropriate behaviors. For example, there is little evidence of widespread instruction in these programs on the effectiveness positive behavioral supports.
Take some time to read this thoughtful piece. Because as school districts increasingly are asked to provide additional mentoring and training programs, including here in Washington state where the legislature passed a bill this session to shore up teacher mentoring, perhaps we should ask schools of education to provide more relevant training before those teachers enter the classroom.