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Think Out Loud

Teaching Teachers

Pete Springer/OPB

As summer winds to a close and students and teachers get ready to return for the fall term, we reached out to educators so they could weigh in on the teaching of teachers, both in colleges and in school districts. We received a great deal of feedback, with many echoing the sentiments of Michelle Nelson, a 3rd grade teacher from Dallas, Oregon.

“College courses give you some knowledge of historical and theoretical aspects of teaching, but the real ‘how-to’ stuff you absolutely have to learn on the job,” Nelson said. “Lengthening the amount of time spent working with children or in classrooms would improve teacher education”

This tracks with a recent state audit on teacher preparation that found improvements in teacher training are not happening fast enough in Oregon teaching colleges and school districts. The audit asked school administrators from 90  districts about teacher preparation in public universities. Half of the administrators believed that the universities’ teaching programs did not adequately prepare teachers for the classroom.

The audit also concluded that school districts themselves need to offer more training and mentoring for new teachers. Some of the funding and coordination needed for such programs should become available under recent $45 million education legislation. The funding from the bill will be awarded in grants beginning in September and October.

Alicia Baker Geiger, an elementary school teacher in Portland, highlighted the need for more teacher mentor programs in the districts.

“It’s difficult to create a situation where anyone can truly be in charge of a classroom until they get their own classroom. That’s where on the job mentors would come in handy,” Geiger said.

The new grant money will provide some of the necessary funding for increased mentorship programs, better teacher evaluation methodology and other initiatives. These programs will need to be implemented across vastly different districts and schools throughout the state.

Are you a teacher or administrator in the public school system? What feedback do you have on how to improve teacher preparation?

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