Train teachers like pilots

Train teachers like pilots, suggests Amanda Ripley in the Atlantic.

Before George Deneault flew Air Force combat missions, he had to practice every skill again and again.  When he retired and became a special-ed math teacher, “he walked into a Virginia classroom cold.”

Before student teachers enter classes, Boston’s Match Teacher Residency program puts them through 100 hours of drills with students and adults acting like slouching, fiddling, back-talking kids. The brain learns to respond to routine misbehavior, so it can focus on the harder work of teaching. The Institute for Simulation and Training runs a virtual classroom at 12 education colleges nationwide—using artificial intelligence, five child avatars, and a behind-the-scenes actor. Some trainees find the simulation so arduous that they decide not to go into teaching after all.

But most teachers in training do 12 to 15 weeks of student teaching with an experienced teacher in the classroom. “Once on the job, most teachers get only nominal supervision, and 46 percent quit within five years,” Ripley writes.

It is time, finally, to start training teachers the way we train doctors and pilots, with intense, realistic practice, using humans, simulations, and master instructors—time to stop saying teaching is hard work and start acting like it.

Is it possible to simulate the teaching experience for people who aren’t really classroom teachers? What would have to be added to the slouching students to make it realistic?

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