Thursday, August 9

Teaching Fellows still frustrated

If you're concerned about teacher quality and retention, take a look at "Your Own Blackboard Jungle," a long article in this week's Village Voice about the training and support that Teaching Fellows receive. (The article is similar in both structure and content to Insideschools' May 2005 article on the subject.)

The fact that "seven weeks of crash-course training and summer school student teaching, [recent fellows] say, is no preparation for the realities of city classrooms" comes as no surprise to anyone who has spent a moment in the city's schools as a teacher, parent, student, or even observer. More interesting are the article's revelations that even in high-needs schools, new fellows may receive the highest-need students, especially those in special education; that 25 percent of all math teachers and 18 percent of special ed teachers are fellows; and that administrators are aware of the vast "room for improvement" in the flimsy graduate programs set up just for fellows.

I'm also always excited to hear teachers with concrete proposals for how to improve the profession; in the article, one teacher advises the DOE to let fellows work as assistant teachers for a year before getting their own classrooms. I'm less interested in reading about young professionals who feel duped by "gauzy subway ads" into becoming teachers, only to find out that teaching is actually hard. That complaint sounds to me like smokers' claims that they just didn't know the cigarettes they were smoking could cause lung cancer. Except, of course, that teaching can be worth the risk, as some of the Teaching Fellows who have stuck with the profession have found.

1 comment:

Brooklyn Teaching Fellow said...

I too read the article and had very little sympathy for TFs who saw subway ads, became fellows, and felt deceived or disillusioned by the ads. We are talking about ADS here people!! They are supposed to lure you in! They are supposed to be attractive and optimistic! They aren't going to say, "Come join NYCTF and be part of a failing system!" Lets get serious!

Also, I definitely think that the 7 week pre-service training needs to be re-examined. It is not fair to couple the students with the highest needs with the newest teachers who have the least experience. However, I don't think that Fellows working as assistant teachers for a year is the answer.

What I think needs to happen is TFs and the DOE need to be MUCH more selective with who they let into the program and into the classrooms of NYC. At the TF Welcoming Event at Lincoln Center in June, the Director of TFs boasted that we are the most selective Teaching Fellows in the history of the program- 1900 new fellows of the 20,000 who applied. Hmmmm. If that’s the case, TFs needs a bit more than cleaver subway ads; or maybe they are recruiting in the wrong places!