I start my first blogging "experience" with a topic that has bothered me ever since I started my educational career. What do we do with mediocre teachers?
For starters, and several have written on the topic, it has to begin with a better teacher preparation program. We need to find a way for pre-service teachers to be in front of a real-world class the minute they enter an educational program. Too often, a student-teaching experience is the first chance a person has to actual practice their pedagogy. The pre-service program must then assess the person early and if they have not shown the ability to effectively teach, then they are removed from the educational program. Would you want legal representation from someone who only had a few "field experience" hours in the courtroom? We don't want teachers like that in our schools.
But addressing mediocrity with teachers that are already on staff can be a challenge. One thing districts try to do is catch up those teachers that are behind. In a discussion with a teacher today, he commented on how frustrating it is to sit in professional development meeting and work with colleagues that show little or no motivation to learn or "get better". If teachers notice that about other teachers, how do you think the students feel?
So what do most districts do? They create staff development programs that address a broad range of learners and focus on the majority needs of staff. Isn't that what we're telling our teachers NOT to do in regards to instructing their students?
Instead, I propose we begin to look at professional development in a different way.
1. Get staff connected with the world of educators and allow them to use time to read professional articles, blogs, and collaborate with other teachers (This means that teachers could collaborate with teachers in other states or countries).
2. Use teachers and administrators to collaboratively plan professional development opportunities.
3. Quit the "one-for-all" approach to staff development and differentiate professional development opportunities based on the needs of the each educator (or group of educators such as special education or 4th grade teachers).
4. Connect evaluation systems with evidence of teachers' professional development: projects, implementation of new strategies, student learning.
The next step is then evaluating systems that break the traditional mold. But that's a whole other topic!
Tell me what your ideas are regarding innovative ways to fight mediocrity.