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Topic: How can we teach kids when we can't teach teachers?
Replies: 2   Last Post: Sep 18, 2002 11:47 PM

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Rich Bednarski

Posts: 1
Registered: 12/20/04
How can we teach kids when we can't teach teachers?
Posted: Apr 14, 1999 2:35 AM
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I come at this from a little different perspective than I've seen in
the many messages I have read on this forum. I am making a career
change into teaching after 20 years in the private sector working as
an actuary. I am in California so I have to take a year's worth of
education courses plus do student teaching to get my credential.
Anyone care to guess what percent of my classwork will involve
learning anything about teaching math? Anyone care to guess what
percentage of my coursework will be done with a professor who has ever
taught math? If you guessed 0 you would be right on.

Instead what I am faced with is 5 courses; an introductory class of
mixed elementary and secondary candidates, two secondary methods
courses, a reading course and a multicultural course. To my mind this
is just crazy.

The intro course was moderately worthwhile. We watched a bunch of
Harry Wong's video series and learned about things like reporting
requirements in cases of suspected abuse. The actual content of the
course could have easily fit into an afternoon.

The first methods course was disappointing, particularly when I
realize it was 50% of the methods education I was going to receive.
Absolutely nothing specific to math, of course. All of the math
specific content was supposed to come from studying the CA Math
framework, whcih really has little about *how* to teach math. Then
the crowning finish was teaching a 30-minute mini-class (and having to
watch the lessons of the 15 other students). And the only feedback we
got on the lessons was from each other, the prof being a big believer
in peer review even when it was not at all establshed that the peers
in question (me included) would recognize the difference between a
good lesson and a KFC commercial.

My current course is the reading course. The biggest part of this
course is doing 25 hours of one-on-one reading tutoring of a secondary
student and submitting audio tales and writeups of the sessions. Can
any of you working math teachers out there explain to me the relevance
of this to teaching a class of 30-35 kids math? I mean, come on. If
the kid hasn't learned to read after 6 to 8 years in school, 4-5 of
which were heavily focused on reading, how am I supposed to teach him
to read en passant of teaching him math in the 45 minutes a day I have
him? It sure sounds good, though, "every teacher is a reading
teacher". And 20% of my teacher training is spent on this.

I don't know what will come in the second methods class. I understand
that we will put together a unit, but unless by some (unlikely)
miracle the prof is a math person I suspect it will be just like the
first methods class, i.e., no real training on teaching *math*. So
what's the deal? Is teaching supposed to be like sales? You know
they say that a good salesman can sell anything. Am I supposed to
believe that a good teacher can teach anything? Are the techniques of
teaching phys ed. the same as the techniques of teaching math? *Are
there* techniques of teaching math? Is so they are kept in secret in
my program.

And then there is the multicultural class. This smacks a little too
much of a bow to the forces of political correctness for me to warm up
to the course. But even if it is very worthwhile, should it assume a
higher priority than giving me a course in which they will give me
some actual training in how to teach math?

Maybe my years in the private sector have made me too practical. When
I had to train people I trained them in the things they were going to
be doing. Education school seems to make great effort to *avoid*
teaching me about the thing I will be doing.

Maybe it is all for the best. I'll probably end up teaching my
students math the same way I was taught, since I'm not being trained
to do anything different. But the real irony is that all of the
things with which we are supposed to infuse our lessons, e.g.,
relevance, motivation, real world applications, guided practice, etc,
are completely lacking in the training I am getting. Maybe the old
witticism needs to be revised to "those who can't, train teachers".

Rich Bednarski





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