Recently I had the wonderful chance to take my fifth and sixth CSET exams in order to round out my credential with a little Physics know-how. It was actually a good opportunity for me to brush up a little on some of the Physics concepts that I haven't really looked at for 5+ years. But what I really got out of the experience was a profound frustration that I was jumping through yet another hoop, and yet again, paying for the privilege. The testing company, Pearson, has quite a few different ways to remind you that they can make you do whatever they want. For instance, you must bring a printed ticket to the testing site that you submit to the proctor. It cannot be a digital copy. The proctor, of course, has several testing documents and a list with your name on it and will require your legal ID card to remain on the desk throughout the test, but despite all of the many ways the proctor can verify that you are where you should be you must have your printed ticket or you cannot begin the test. Pearson does not allow labels on water bottles and your water bottle must be clear plastic. Sorry DejaBlue. Only one person from a testing class may visit the restroom at a time (but there were dozens of rooms testing- leading to a line at one point for the women's restroom). No mechanical pencils. Sit in the chair with your testing number on it. Raise your hand when you are done and the proctor will excuse you.
I bring all this up because it reminded me what my students must feel like when they take tests in the courses I'm participating in right now. They also have a long list of dos and do nots that were created in the interests of preventing cheating and providing a seamless experience for the teacher. But that's the rub. This is all for the teacher. These incredibly convoluted systems are often created more to avoid extra effort than to provide a better learning experience for the students. Don't get me wrong. Scantron forms are incredibly easy and convenient to grade and it's lovely to have 100+ tests graded in minutes. But it seems as if this new testing culture is forcing students (and student-teachers!) to jump through more hoops without offering any more, and often less, of a benefit.
I guess what I am really getting at, and where I fully support Wagner's position in chapter 3, is that the tests we are giving students and the courses they are taking are not in line with the education that we are trying to give. We are teaching students to memorize, solve by rote, and jump through hoops. The ideas of what education is need to be transformed from the bottom up.
Reinventing the Education Profession
I've heard a lot of talk recently about the tendency of teachers to carve out their own private kingdoms. As one would imagine this has not been said to speak well of the teachers in question. I've seen it too. Teachers have their own classrooms, their own curriculum and their own ideas of what education should mean and it would be all too easy to allow all of it to form a rigid little bubble that the teacher can refine and perfect. This seems like a natural consequence of how I have seen my own training as a teacher take place. We are taught to teach by individuals who have their own little kingdom as part of the credential program. Most of us are sent to classes with master teachers who have already defined the borders of their kingdom and when we get a class of our own I think it is really easy to just do what we have seen.
But what if things could be different? If I could re-imagine what education and the credential program would look like it would center fully around the experiences taking place as we teach. Instead of doing pet project and listening to private crusades each week the course would be designed around the experiences the credential students are having in the classroom. I currently feel like there is a huge disconnect between what is occurring in the classrooms I sit in on Mondays and the classroom I teach in the rest of the week. I think that having the US who observe us come in and work through the coursework alongside us would be a huge benefit so that we could have experienced colleagues who have actually seen us in action provide insight and advice would be a huge boon. Currently, much of what I am doing is trial and error and I rarely get any useful feedback on how to actually improve (I've gotten advice on what I'm doing wrong but little on how to improve). I would also break cohorts more strongly into subject matter groups. It's great to talk about the need for literacy or argumentation in our classes but literacy means very different things in different courses.
The last thing that I'd love to see change about our course is having the chance to see GOOD teachers doing GOOD teaching, preferably in our own subject area. I've read a lot about good teaching but reading and doing are two different things and the few times that I have attended a seminar or watched a video where good teaching is being demonstrated I feel like I've been able to take huge strides forward in my own teaching abilities.
Stop telling us to be good teachers. Stop telling us what good teaching is. Start showing us what good teachers do and helping us learn from OUR experiences (not yours).