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?

How long did Weingarten teach?

Education reformers “wouldn’t last 10 minutes in a classroom,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten this week.

A lawyer turned union leader, Weingarten’s classroom time was limited, counters Education Action Group.   

Weingarten’s AFT bio claims she taught history at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn from 1991 to 1997. EAG obtained her personnel file via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. Weingarten was hired as a substitute teacher in 1991 and received a “provisional” license in 1993. In 1994, she received a “certificate to serve as a substitute.” A 1997 letter indicates Weingarten didn’t submit documentation showing she’d met requirements for licensure.

No record indicates she ever served as a full-time teacher or was evaluated by a principal or other school official.              
When Weingarten ran for president of New York’s United Federation of Teachers in 1998, her opponent, Michael Shulman, suggested that she was not a “real teacher.”  

“She worked five months full-time that I’ve been aware of, in 1992, at Clara Barton High School,” Shulman was quoted as saying in the New York Times. “Since then she taught maybe one class for 40 minutes a day.”

An education reformer with two years as a Teach for America teacher apparently has more classroom experience than the AFT leader.