Post Academic


Taking Teaching Seriously by … Actually Training Teachers

Posted in Breaking Academic Stereotypes by Caroline Roberts on July 14, 2010
Tags: , , ,

PhotobucketConsider this a response to a response: Tenured Radical wrote about the New York Times’ article on how fewer students are getting into Teach for America. Tenured Radical asks why people think Teach for America is so great in the first place:

I dislike TFA because I am a teacher, and I am quite clear that you don’t learn to teach in five weeks, much less teach students who have a range of social, economic and developmental problems; who are often hungry, in pain, angry or frightened; and who come in unruly waves of 40-50 every 45 minutes.

Whether you like TFA or not (I am undecided, for the record), Tenured Radical’s point that five weeks isn’t enough time to train a teacher is crystal clear. It isn’t.

Like most TA’s, I got thrown into the deep end of the teaching pool with my first comp assignment. I was trained in terms of teaching and composition theory, but I had no clue how to handle day-to-day tasks or how to deal with problem students. I pulled a whole lot out of thin air. Of course, I also got the vibe that teaching was a temporary thing for me, to avoid as much as possible, so why do I need to train for it?

Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

I’m with Tenured Radical in that teaching shouldn’t be treated as a temporary gig, either in TFA or in grad school. If you’re going to grad school in the humanities, you’d better get ready to teach because you aren’t going to get the kinds of funds that people in the sciences get for their labs. It is not a temp job or something you do out of the goodness of your heart—it is a legitimate career and should be treated like one, with training for practical scenarios mixed in with the theory.

Teach for America probably has its heart in the right place, but it is a Band-Aid for the fact that teachers have a reputation for being bleeding-heart suckers, and they are paid accordingly.

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