Who will teach the teachers?

Ms. Smlph needed only two courses, “Technologies in Education” and “Reading in the Content Area,” to complete a full credential. Neither instructor was competent, but it was sure was easy. In the technology class:

Weekly quizzes came from the textbook’s website, and my classmates and I quickly figured out that, by using the browser’s back button, one could get answers for and resubmit the quizzes endlessly without losing points.

The reading instructor was a kindergarten teacher who had never taught the course before. The class average on weekly assignments was 100 percent. Ms. Smlph got 100 percent on the open-book midterm, despite leaving the book at home.

Going into the final, I still had 100% in the class. When I heard that, like the midterm, this exam would be open-book, I was confident that I could do fairly well. When the instructor told us it would consist of 25 multiple choice questions (this was the FINAL, people!), I became even more sure of myself. Then…I saw the test. Many of the questions contained obvious typos. Some of the questions had vaguely tricky answers, like this one:

Why should teachers allow students time to think?

a. Being given more time makes students think.
b. being given more time enables students to answer
questions better.
c. It is the polite thing to do.
d. It ensures quick answers.

I was a little torn between a and b. Eventually, I chose b because nothing, not wait-time, not a miracle can MAKE anyone do anything. Tricky questions like these aren’t the type of trick questions that I can respect. Rather, they’re the type that requires the test-taker to attempt to guess what the test-writer might have been thinking. Of course, I will never understand what my instructor was thinking with this next question:

What educational practices contribute to the students diversity in secondary classrooms?

a.More students entering school from poverty-level homes
c.Cultural change
d. All of the above

Since when are immigration, cultural change, and poverty EDUCATIONAL PRACTICES?????

She got only 80 percent on the final but passed the course.

Update: This New York Times story praises Emporia State’s rigorous teacher education program, which emphasizes practical knowledge teachers need in the classroom, as opposed to the theoretical approach at many teacher ed programs. What will most advance social justice: Education schools that teach teachers to teach kids to read, write and do math or ed schools that teach social justice?

Alex Russo thinks there’s nothing new in the story; School Matters says it’s skewed toward conservatives, in which camp he includes Kati Haycock of Education Trust.

Mentor Matters advocates intensive internships that let trainee teachers work with master teachers as instructional aides. George Mason University runs such a program.

About Joanne


  1. ucladavid says:

    When I was getting my credential only a couple years ago, most of the classes were useless and I went to one of the best credentialing schools in California. (BTW, I did not get my credential at ucla; I got my undergrad there.) Many of the teachers would teach as if the class was the best class in the world and not a real world classroom. For example, one lesson we did was where the class would get into groups and each person was a character in history like Thomas Jefferson and then other people in history asked you questions as that person. The problem with the lesson was that one assumes that the students were all experts on each of the people, that all of them did their homework, and that all of them prepared beforehand. The assignment could be done in an honors class, but most first year teachers rarely get an honors class in the first year.

    Another problem is that a good chunk of the credential teachers have been out of the classroom for many years. The best ones were the ones that are still in the classroom and I really did learn many things from them like their own personal stories of teaching or tricks that they had. They were a grand total of 4 out of the 12 teachers I had.

    Also, many of the still in school teachers were not good teachers for what I was teaching. For example, I want to teach middle/high school; however, many of my teachers taught in elementary school. Their tools were good for elementary school teachers, but not for the upper grades.

    Now everyone has to create a portfolio of what they have learned in the credential program. We went through all the classes and the student teaching, and if we can’t create a good portfolio, we fail. The other main problem with the portfolio is that if you talk to 5 different people on how to do it, you could get 10 different answers on how to do it.

    Almost every new teacher I talk to say that the credential program is one big joke because the classes are useless, the portfolio is pointless, and most of the teachers really don’t help. The best classes I had were actually the student teaching classes because then I truly learned good lesson planning and good classroom management.

  2. beaglemama says:

    ucladavid, I have a serious case of morbid curiosity to know where exactly you did your credentialing studies. Your experience sounds extremely familiar to me!

    Fortunately, I escaped, er, completed my credential before the portfolios became de rigeur. I created a small sampler portfolio, but that was on my own effort for my own use.

    As I keep making false starts to begin graduate work, I feel the same about education degrees and coursework: I’d rather have every hair on my body tweezed than to enter back into that universe.

  3. ucladavid says:

    I got my teaching credential in the Los Angeles where many many teachers get their credentials from. I don’t want to say where exactly because I don’t know who might be reading this.

  4. BadaBing says:

    Then I’ll say it for you: Cal Poly Crapola. Portfolios help you become a better teacher. No, they do. I’m not joking. They really do. No, seriously. They help a lot. No, really.

  5. beaglemama says:

    I didn’t expect anyone to “expose” her/his program, just stated that I had some morbid curiosity.

    Can someone explain the whole portfolio thing to me? I had a coworker last year who went on and On and ON about her portfolio, but for the life of me I couldn’t determine what actually went in it (artifacts??? huh?) and what its supposed use was. What is its purpose? Is it something one updates at the end of each year while teaching? Is it a tool to make national board certification easier? Is it something one’s evaluators review each year? Maybe I”m showing my ignorance here, but I’m 10 years out of ed school.

  6. SuperSub says:

    Wow, sound slike I should have moved out west to teach…getting credentials seems a heck of a lot easier. The master’s program I’m in now uses National Board Certification as a model… graduates of the program generally have a head start on the National Boards when they get teaching.

  7. ucladavid says:

    The portfolio I had to do was 26 artifacts from 13 tpes or teacher perfromance expectations. The tpes are things that a good teacher should be able to do like having good classroom management, know their subject matter, use effective instructional time, working on their craft, working well with the administration and other faculty, working with parents, etc.

    Each tpe has two artifcats of how you completed that tpe. For example on the one about communicating to the students, I had a picture of the agenda for one day. For the one on lesson planning, I had a copy of my lesson plan for a day. For the one on learning about students, I put in my student survey. For the parents tpe, I had a copy of my letter to parents.

    Then you have to write about how the artifact made you a better teacher and shows how you completed the tpe. Most people just bs this part of the assignment and get it done with. When you asked the people in charge at the school on how to do this, this where most of their answers differed. Does it have to be 1 or 2 pages? How much reflection do we need? What specifically are the readers looking for? Could you provide an example of a good or bad one? (usually no)
    My portfolio was roughly 150 pages long and took about 2 hours just to print it. Each reflection took about an hour to write, but many people did it shorter times. You just wrote on what the readers wanted to hear.

    It took about a month just to find out if you passed it or not. Two readers usually read it and graded each tpe on 1-5 scale with a 3 being passing. If you don’t pass all 13 tpes, then you have to redo it.