“They are not fit to teach…”

I have heard people in the field (schools all around) telling this over and over again, “The graduates that you guys produce cannot survive in the actual school system. There is something wrong in the training and education that they are getting.”

Although my immediate reaction as a teacher-trainer is to become defensive about the training that we provide, I am more inclined to reflect on the statement and investigate where we have gone wrong.

One of the problems that I see to be common in teacher-training programs is that we tend to be more theoretical about something so practical like teaching. Instead of providing a practically-oriented education and training, we are more concerned about textbook materials and require student-teachers to memorize principles, theories, and contents. We rarely use and demonstrate the usage of various instructional strategies that we so fervently teach. We don’t model appropriate classroom management techniques. We fail when it comes to conflict resolution with our student-teachers.

When teaching practices are not demonstrated in our own classes, whatever student-teachers learn as a theoretical body of knowledge remains just that – passive knowledge. A student once wrote in her journal as a reflection about one of my classes, “Thank you for using various instructional strategies in the class. It’s one thing to learn about these in our methods classes. It’s another thing altogether when we observe our teacher teaching using these methods. By observing these strategies in action, we get more confidence about using the same when we do our internship.”

Going back to the schools – many fresh graduates possess the capability to operate at a functional level even at entry point. However, when they do try using some of the new things that they learned in the college, their older colleagues quickly discourage them. Most teachers who are already teaching for years, feel comfortable with their own methods. They don’t really care about changing. They don’t care whether their approaches are outdated or are in conflict with research in the areas of cognitive and educational psychology. They just love doing what they are used to doing, regardless of knowing that all that they are doing might not be the best things for children and their learning.

Because it is difficult to work in an environment that discourages non-conformity, these fresh graduates quickly become tuned to the traditional, ineffective practices of their older colleagues. So, instead of experimenting with new ideas and teaching practices, they shut down their creative energy and do what everyone else does.

Hence, the cause of the problem is two-pronged. On one hand, lecturers training these teachers are to be blamed for the sad condition. On the other hand, school cultures that are not conducive and progressive (closed to new innovation and creative ideas and practices) also play a role in bringing out mediocre performance in the fresh graduates who go into the profession of teaching.

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