Saturday, February 10, 2007

Polishing the whole apple

Last Sunday the Boston Globe ran this editorial about the state of education in Massachusetts.

It contained a host of information, including details on sound legislation that would "set up a pilot plan for a sophisticated [teacher] training system -- one that far exceeds anything that now exists in the United States."

In addition to revamping teacher training and professional development, the bill calls for improved teacher evaluation and increased communication and planning time for teachers and administrators.

The article also articulates the skills and competencies required by public school educators:

Teachers and administrators need to know a huge amount: what to teach, how to teach, how to align with state frameworks, what cognitive science says about how children learn, how to motivate students, how to manage classrooms, and how to engage parents and communities.
Given the above, it's a no-brainer that teacher education and professional development needs to be relevant, current, nuanced, and top-notch.

One of public education's greatest ironies is that the current system provides little time for teachers to help each other improve what they do in the classroom.

School districts - looking for a panacea - too often contract professional development speakers who know little about the inner-workings of a particular system. As a result, the prescriptions these individuals dole out usually effect little positive change.

Aside from attending specific conferences tailored to what I do in the classroom (such as the New England Association of Teachers of English's annual New Hampshire colloquium), the best professional development I receive comes from those most familiar with my curriculum and students - the colleagues with whom I work.

It would be wonderful to have more time to learn from them.

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