Monday, March 31, 2008

The Future of Education

Over the past 18 months Lauren and I have assumed the roles of cooperating teachers for three up and coming pedagogues.  The interesting thing (for me at least) is that they represent the three schools from which I have received degrees; New York University, Columbia University and Fordham University.  

This rite of passage into becoming a fully qualified, licensed teacher can be a positive experience or a nightmare.  I had the former but while I was student teaching I had friends who would relate their own horror stories of cooperating teachers who were rude, unhelpful or just downright mean.

And the student teacher is mostly at the mercy of their cooperating teacher because a) they need the placement to fulfill course requirements b) finding a placement is not always the easiest thing to do to begin with and c) most student teachers are a bit unsure of themselves since they are learning and trying new things and therefore have not found a voice or a way to assert themselves in this setting.

I really enjoy being a cooperating teacher for two main reasons; I can put forth an example of the way I feel things should be done and because I learn so much from each student teacher - even if it is what not to do. This relationship necessitates the kind of ongoing dialogue and examination that needs to take place in order to keep the teaching/learning experience fresh, up to date and meaningful.  

Our student teacher, Mike, will graduate in May with a Master's Degree at only 22 years of age.  He had his second formal observation last week and really knocked it out of the ballpark with a lesson on non-fiction writing.  I happen to be of the opinion that anyone can become a decent teacher but those who are naturals really stand out.  Lauren is a natural.  Mike is too.  Lucky me to be surrounded by such passion, dedication and smarts.


WAT said...

Hey, only 22 and already so far ahead?! I'm jealous! Good for Mike! He's got good support from all ye dudes.

I wanted to be a teacher when I was younger, but have fallen into a typical 9-5 office job for years now. I often think it's never too late though and many people tell me I'm pretty book smart and entertaining and that I'd make a damn good teacher of sorts.

marxsny said...

During the years I practiced Pharmacy I had several Pharmacy students who I served as a mentor to. All Pharmacy students have to work so many hours as an intern under the guidance of an RPh but the students are not assigned, it is up to the student to find a Pharmacist to mentor them. I had many requests because I'm just a treat to work with. I actually kind of miss participating in that dynamic, but who knows perhaps now I'm so old, bitter and jaded that I wouldn't be any good at it.

Joy Keaton said...

[I] really enjoy being a cooperating teacher for two main reasons; I can put forth an example of the way I feel things should be done [...] I love how you glided past this one! I know you really wanted to write "it's my way or the highway, student teacher!" ;)

I tease. I tease. They're damned lucky to have the experience of your classroom; and I'm sure they know that (or find it out when they see what else is going on out there!)

lettuce said...

you're clearly a natural too gary - your children must be having a ball this year with so much lovely talent around!

Gary said...

Wat - I agree with you in the 'it's never too late' statement. I didn't start teaching until I was 32 which seems so late compared with so many of the students I am working with. It was a wonderful decision for me and who may need a placement one day and you are welcome to come here.

An added bonus in teaching is that the day truly flies by. When I worked in an office there were times when the clock moved so slowly because I was not enjoying what I was doing. That is not the case here.

Mark - LOL on the bitter, jaded and old depiction of yourself. But can you imagine yourself ever going back into that place again? I know you are always moving forward and it might be hard to 'go back'. However, if you did I am sure you would have many requests for your guidance.

Joy - I know! I knew you would pick up on that because you know me so well. You also know that I would never say 'the highway' I would simply gently redirect the lost soul until they discovered (seemingly on their own) that my way is better :) And this is from years of experience not just a control thingie. I hope.

Lettuce - Well, thank you. I think I am a natural as well but couldn't or wouldn't dare write that in the post for fear of coming across like I thought I was all that and a bag of chips. One must temper one's gifts with a little humility, no?

WAT said...

Encouraging news sir to still become a teacher!


Dumdad said...

After all the posts of yours I've read I also think you're a natural. But being a natural doesn't mean working any less hard than others. I know you constantly think about what you're doing and how you're doing it. That takes effort, time and patience.

Tiger Woods is a natural at what he does - and yet he works harder than any other golfer.

They used to say Gary Player was a "lucky" golfer. He replied: "Yes I am. The more I practise the luckier I get!"

mouse (aka kimy) said...

thank you for the opportunity to be able to spend most of a day with you & your kids. I don't believe I've ever been in a more supportive, stimulating, and successful classroom environment. the skill and grace you and lauren have as teachers was truly beautiful.mike is very fortunate to have mentors like you and lauren. and your kids - each one is so bright and delightful. they will carry your teaching gifts with them for the rest of their lives.

passion and dedication - dear gary, when it comes to teaching you have written the book!

Reya Mellicker said...

Actually, I think your student teachers are lucky to have YOU on their team.

I've had so many bad teachers that I've come to believe it isn't for everyone. Those to whom the art comes naturally are always such a pleasure to encounter.

I taught with Reclaiming for a long time - was never great at it. Adequate is the way I would describe my level of ability. I'm better at teaching Reiki, still not "star quality."

Bet you're the best of the best, my dah-ling! Wanna bet?

Mikey T said...

I personally loved my student teaching experience - not sure the school loved me cause of the rebellious nature of my lesson plans. But I imagine if that experience was good then working with you in your classroom would have been a true master class!!

Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I've read so much New Age psychobabble about how pain, suffering and challenges in life are our best teachers. While I agree there is definitely truth in that, I think having supportive, caring teachers help us much more. Thanks for being part of that.

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Yeah, good teaching can be learned, but great teaching requires something much more innate.

Steve said...

I do think teaching comes naturally to some people, the ones who can really relate to kids and their minds and thought processes. I think I would be utterly lost in a classroom. (The kids would have fun running roughshod over me, though!)

Gary said...

Dumdad - Thanks for mentioning this. I have a friend who always tells me that I have a charmed life, which implies that things simply fall into place. But I do believe that comes back to following your bliss. When you follow your bliss doors may open where you never expected and brilliant opportunities become available but it does not mean that you didn't work your ass off in allowing that to happen.

Kim - I LOVED spending the day with you and I am so happy that we met and that you were also able to meet my amazing students. They are fantastic aren't they. They make me smile. I am hoping to find the time to post about our little trip in the near future. BTW, the kids thought you were great.

Reya - Speaking of teaching Reiki...please keep me posted if you teach a reiki II class.

Mikey - I loved hearing about the things you did with your students. You were/are so creative and motivating. I know you resist but who knows where the future will lead. Perhaps we'll be teaching side by side one day in Santa Barbara.

Gregg - Right, there is enough pain and suffering without making the student teaching experience one of those.

JDZS - I agree. I can't really add too much more to your statement. :)

Steve - Now there you go. I think that is it! I have the mentality of a six year old most of the time and sometimes the kids act more mature than I do. So yes, that understanding the thought processes and relating is certainly no problem.


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