Learning to reflect, but not to teach

Ed schools are big on reflection, but don’t teach prospective teachers how to teach, complains Peter Sipe, a Boston middle school teacher, in the Boston Herald.

While he went to ed school, his wife was in medical school. She learned how to be a doctor. He reflected.

. . . a professor would speak for a bit on some theoretical matter, then we’d break into small groups to discuss it for an extravagantly long time, then we’d get back into a big group and share our opinions some more. I remember a class one evening in which you could not speak unless you had been tossed an inflatable ball. My wife’s classes did not go like this.

The state certification exams to become a teacher “were parlor games” compared to the medical board exams his wife had to pass.

In education school he was encouraged to be a “reflective practitioner,” but got little practical training in “how to do anything.”

Pilots aren’t trained by forming small groups to discuss the atmosphere. Cadets don’t become cops by writing weekly responses to Crime and Punishment.

. . . The logic was, I believe, that we would receive our practical training on the job. And I guess I did. But it was rather in the manner one would learn by being told to find the manual after the starboard engines quit.

After 14 years as a teacher, he wishes he’d learned how to teach students to read well and “what to do when they can’t.”

But hell, I’d have settled for learning how to take attendance, or collect papers, or manage a fire drill properly.

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, only a third of ed schools “do an adequate job in reading instruction, around one in five do so in math, and under 10 percent do well in both simultaneously,” writes Sipe.

About Joanne


  1. If the student body at the teacher college were looking forward to the same sort of remuneration as the student body at the medical school, odds are the competitiveness of the program, the difficulty of the program, and the number of students applying to the much tougher program, would have gone way up. If the instructors at the teacher college were paid on par with medical school professors, odds are the college would have attracted a much stronger faculty.

    Funny how that works.

    • Elizabeth says:


      There are a lot of professions that pay based on a 12-month average what teachers make. The coursework has significantly more rigor. Respect is a different issue.

  2. Mr. Sipe seems puzzled by his experience in ed school.

    Should I clue him in?

  3. SC Math Teacher says:

    Ed school was a total — and I do mean that literally — waste of time. Many of these reflections centered on the progressives’ holy trinity of race, class, and gender.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Just spitballin’ here, but I’d bet the lesson plans for reflection are pretty simple and quick, and there are no papers to correct.

  5. Well, the education cartel doesn’t teach students to study, why should we expect it to teach teachers to teach?

    Students and teachers that survive develop some strategy to get by, but have little perspective or time to reflect on whether that strategy is the most effective until long after they have completed their career.

  6. Tom Linehan says:

    This is just one of scores of articles and studies on educating teachers. It is a wonder we have so many good teachers. It sure has nothing to do with education schools.