Traditional Teacher Education and Alternative Certification: The Case of the Emergency Teacher
There still seems to be much controversy over the whether or not teachers should be prepared more extensively in university-based teacher education programs (with time to learn content, how to teach the content to diverse students, and significant opportunities to “practice” teach) or in short-cut alternative certification programs (with only having content knowledge) before one becomes the independent teacher of record. I find folks on both sides of the issue to be sensitive and somewhat intolerable of hard questions and any critique no matter how presented.
In a recent Education Week commentary I tried to lay out issues to suggest that the traditional prep versus alternative certification should not be an “either-or” but “and-both” strategy. To read the commentary in its entirety, please visit Education Week (requires registration): http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2005/10/19/08berry.h25.html
The issue, as far as I am concerned, is about what is best for the students who must be well-served and well-taught by teachers who know more than content and who will stay more than 1-2 years in the classroom.
Recently, Harry and Rosemary Wong tell the story of journalist Christina Asquith, who became an "emergency teacher" in inner-city Philadelphia and lived to write about it -- in a just-published book titled "The Emergency Teacher." http://teachers.net/wong/NOV05/
The Wongs, who befriended Asquith and co-wrote articles with her, include the first chapter of her book in this recent column at the Teachers.Net website. Asquith's experience raises serious questions about the notion that alternative rapid-entry teacher recruitment programs are a meaningful solution to teaching quality issues in our nation's hard-to-staff schools. Asquith is an amazing woman — a former journalist who served as a correspondent in Iraq and then proceeded to “fight for women’s rights in the Middle East.” But she also quickly learned that despite her content knowledge and extraordinary experiences, she was not ready to teach middle school English in the Philadelphia schools. She writes:
"On many days I truly loved teaching, but my lack of experience made the bad days too terrible for everyone involved. Overwhelmingly, I felt guilty, confused, and hopeless about the experience. Yet, in the back of my mind, I wondered if I hadn’t been thrown in cold, if I had had some training, any training—some support, could my brief career in teaching have turned out differently?"
Check out this amazing story — and consider the kind of preparation and support all teachers need.