Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In which Mrs. T vents about crappy teacher ed programs:

Disclaimer: I am totally supportive of teacher ed. programs and providing up and coming teachers with whatever knowledge, advice, teacher tips that I have in my bag of tricks. I was a teacher in training once, we all should give back.

In January, I was asked if I would be a "cooperating teacher" (not sure of the exact lingo here...) for a "field experience student". In my own teacher training, this meant that the person was not a student teacher, but was to put in a certain amount of hours observing - perhaps participating minimally. The teacher had a couple of evaluation forms to fill out that were basically a checklist of observable behaviors- stuff about my professionalism, how I interacted with the kids and the other teachers, etc. The field experiences was in conjunction with Child Development, or some other preliminary, required class. We kept a journal, we discussed our experiences with others in the same boat. Current students are given a checklist of things to do, like go to a basketball game, eat lunch in the teachers' lounge, go to the cafeteria, attend a band concert, etc.

As a teacher, I have had students come from several different colleges and universities- and what I just described is pretty standard. The student comes, observes, maybe goes over homework assignments with them, I give them tips, pointers, they hand me an evaluation sheet, I fill it out, they go bye-bye. Sometimes, I speak to the director of the program. Sometimes the university sends me a token of their appreciation in the form of a certificate valid for 1 free credit hour. I've had wonderful students and I've had others to whom I have recommended that they choose a different career path.

So, in January, I get this student- she has already completed a BA in Spanish and is now pursuing a Master's in Education at Fly-by-Night College- one of those strip mall varieties that offers a whole bunch of degrees to people so they may be Dental Assistants, Administrative Assistants, Medical Transcriptionists. All very noble, fine fields. But, I question the whole "Masters in Ed." thing at this joint. For one thing, the classes are on-line. She has no hours in education whatsover, but she can get a teaching degree online? Also, I was initially contacted by one person, who came to school to meet with me and handed me a stack of papers that was literally like 3 inches high- it was all of the syllabi for the courses in the program. Um, why do I want this?

From the get go, the objectives and expectations set before the student were extremely unclear. No checklist, no list of things she HAD to do.

So, it was agreed that this student would come observe every day for one block, since she's working as a para in the district and must report there for duty each day. THEN, I get an email from a different person from Fly-by-Night College asking me 4 questions- all pertaining to the field experience student- or "candidate" as they like to say. I refuse, because that's just stupid, educationalese jargon that I hate. Anyway, the questions are supposed to be the evaluation. I am told that I will receive an email from this person who is not the person who came to me initially on a biweekly basis. The questions are:

1. Verify the times and dates the candidate came to your classroom. (Exuse me, but shouldn't the student have a log of some sort that she shows me and I sign? Why is this MY responsibility?)

2. Briefly describe the names of the classes observed and to what extent the candidate participated. (Every week I have to describe that she's observing my Spanish 1 class? Shouldn't that be a one-time deal?)

3. Briefly describe the teaching strategies the candidate observed. (I HATE terms like "teaching strategies". What the hell am I supposed to write? How about this for a strategy: "Try to keep slacker kids from sleeping so they may pass." This is really more of an evaluation of ME at this point.)

4. Share any concerns you may have. (Well, that's just vague as hell, now isn't it?)

Obviously, these questions are crap. I have several other problems with this evaluation method as well. First of all- since it's all via internet, nothing is actually signed- seems kind of shady for any kind of evaluation. Secondly, the field exp. student takes no responsibility for meeting deadlines and asking me for the evaluation herself. Nor is there any directive to evaluate WITH the student, which would be beneficial. PLUS, in addition to getting these annoying 4 questions every other week, there was always the directive to respond "NO later than Tuesday at 3 pm " of the following week. Ok, the other colleges and universities are much more easy breezy and are much more grateful to have teachers willing to help them out. I passive agressively took my time getting back to him. One week, I even asked if he had considered using a checklist type of evaluation, as that was my experience with other, larger, more established, non-strip-mall universities. (ok, I didn't really say that last part, but I swear the rest is true.)I basically ripped apart those 4 stupid questions. PLUS, he neglected to place an apostrophe in the phrase "candidate's participation". Not once, but every week. I always corrected it in my response (copy, cut, paste, edit).

His weenie response had him snivelling about how it might be kind of hard to implement some of my suggestions because the field experience was embedded in coursework. Well, shit, ALL field experience is embedded in coursework. Does this guy even have a background in education???? He wondered if I had copies of the other schools' forms. Oh yeah, I'm going to 1. send him copies of stuff from the competition and 2. do his job for him? Um, no. I told him he should go online and look at some of the other schools' websites, Iowa State in particular. He did not respond. He continued to send me those 4 lame questions every other week for the next few months.

Oh- and the guy that initially contacted me? He sent me 2 emails-"Please send me any concerns about Winky that you have." Why would I do this when I've already answered the other 4 questions? I just forwarded those to him. And then I never really heard from him. And when I asked the other yahoo about why there were 2 guys, I never really got an answer.

So, not only is the program complete and utter shit, but the student is a trip as well. First of all, her dad is a teacher in our building, and her mom is an administrator elsewhere in the district. Second, she graduated from the school where I teach. I question the appropriateness of her being placed there. There are several other schools in our district where she could have gone and several other districts that she could have gone to. I think she would have had a much different attitude if she had to blaze her own trail.

To say that she's an odd bird is an understatement. She didn't interact much with the kids and complained later that they weren't much fun (hello? it's 7:40 in the morning and they are teenagers. What do you expect? Be glad for the peace.)She has an extremely annoying voice and the manner in which she speaks comes across as being condescending. Many times she asked me "Have you ever tried blah blah blah?". For some reason, this irritated me- mostly her tone, I guess, but I took it as a judgement of my teaching. I think she felt that all of this teacher ed stuff was just a formality and that she'd be able to pick up a teaching position with no problem.

She decided not to come on the testing day because she "didn't see the point of sitting and watching students fill in bubbles all morning" and then didn't get it when I told her that I really wished she would have shown up so she could gain the experience of administering a standardized test- not as easy as you might think. Then she started missing other days and not calling or email to let me know. She missed an entire week, not emailing until Thurs. to tell me she was still ill, and then missing Friday to boot. She decided not to come on the days of finals. She emailed one week and said she'd be observing at a different school- ? Several times, her dad called my room looking for her and asked if she had been there on previous days that week. All in all, I think she missed like 18 days.

I gave her tests to correct and she messed them up- very inconsistent on grading vocab. quizzes- you can't be, you must be precise and detail oriented- not fair to the kids, otherwise. I didn't have her correct tests anymore after that.
I had her go over homework and other activities with the kids. I also had her teach a grammar lesson. She did those pretty well. I would have maybe tried to incorporate her a bit more into the fold had she not been such a flaky attender.

She was supposed to be done at the end of March sometime- never gave me an exact date. Well, since she missed so many days and had a minimum number of required observation hours, she ended up having to come well into April. Last Friday was her last day. Free at last! (me, not her.) I hope she does not become a teacher. And, I hope FBN College loses their shaky accreditation.

That's ma story. It certainly felt good to vent. Thanks for listening.


Blogger Nic said...

I had one that had decided to affect some sort of Castilian lisp (she'd never been to Spain, and was not a Spanish speaker). The kids would look at me like, WTF?? every time she spoke. I found it an annoying affectation, actually. It was like me suddenly deciding that from now on, I was only going to speak BBC english.

She also once, without asking me, snatched a kid's cellphone, threw it in a drawer, and scratched it. Guess who got to hear about THAT from the parents? (Hint: Not her.)

4/26/2007 8:24 AM  
Blogger happychyck said...

I hope you were honest in your evaluations. The whole situation does indeed sound fishy.

I've had good experiences with practicum/student teachers, but even at that it's tough having to keep track of what is technically another student in your classroom.

4/27/2007 12:03 AM  
Blogger Pissed Off said...

I have student observers a lot. They sit in back and all I do is sign that they were in the room. If I had to do more, I would not let them in. It's hard enough teaching the kids without trying to teach the teachers.

4/27/2007 7:07 PM  
Blogger Babette said...

Sounds like a tasty Indian meal with authentic Indian music in the background might be just what you need for getting through this.

I'm here from Mamacita's.

Have you seen NAMESAKE, the new Mira Nair movie? I use selections from the soundtrack when teaching yoga classes.

4/27/2007 9:41 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

I've never had a student teacher, but I've had a lot of student observers, as well as regular teachers (usually first year teachers)come observe. No problem as they sit, they watch, I sign. Most of them leave asking me how I manage to teach seventh grade without losing my mind.

4/28/2007 2:06 PM  
Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

We have one of those fly-by-night teacher education programs (totally online) in my neck of the woods. I wonder if it's related to the one whereof you write so scathingly?

4/28/2007 6:49 PM  
Blogger Bellezza said...

Sometimes, the best thing to say when asked to take on a "field experience" is No. Thank you, anyway. I've had my share of horror stories, as well. My favorite line of yours was, "It's 7:40, enjoy the peace." What a pity she's not open to learning something from you.

4/28/2007 9:45 PM  

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