I was recently reading some education articles online and came across one written by a professor I had taken a course from during university. The article, “The teacher educator and the teacher: When theory and practice conflict” by Meredith Rogers Cherland [Journal of Reading, Vol. 32, No. 5, (Feb. 1989) pp. 409-413] was one that made me reflect back on my own university and internship experience.
Throughout the article, Meredith talks about how professors are educating future teachers and are sharing with them theories and methods of teaching. She mentions how a professor may share one theory, but once their student enters the classroom and is working with a cooperating teacher and students, they will see other theories and teaching practices.
I think it is important to remember that all teachers are different. What method you believe in and see success in, or one that is recommended by the school board, is not always going to be what works for other teachers or one that other teachers are using.
As an education student, I was presented with many methods and theories on teaching and how to teach, how to make things work for students. Many professors including Meredith presented me with that ideas that challenged my thinking and beliefs about education even to this day.
Once I was in the classroom and working with my cooperating teacher, I went away from some of the key beliefs I had gained from my university education. The information was still in the back of my mind, but I was now working closely with a teacher for 4 months. I tended to take on the practices of my cooperating teacher and shied away from practices I had learnt about and was eager to implement during that very internship.
The teacher educator’s “theory” requires a new form of classroom practice. The cooperating teacher’s “practice” is based on a different theory. When the two conflict, it is the student teacher’s education that is damaged.
(Cherland, pg. 411-412)
I find myself agreeing with the following statements very much:
We tell cooperating teachers that student teachers are there to learn by imitating them, but we destroy students’ admiration for them, and so undermine their desire to learn through imitation. And we are only doing our jobs. We feel obligated to convince student teachers of the worth of what we have to teach them.
Cooperating teachers, in turn, undermine the work of the teacher educators by saying, in effect, “What you hear at the university isn’t connected to the real world. We real teachers know best, and we do it differently. You are here to learn by doing what I do.” They too feel obligated to convince student teachers of the worth of what they have to teach them.
(Cherland, pg. 412)
Personally at times during my internship, I felt that I had to do things as my cooperating teacher did. I felt that I had to conform to her way of teaching and that if I tried something too different, it would not be approved. I remember being back at the university for my last semester and thinking, I really should have done all the lessons and activities that I had wanted to. I should have tried things I wasn’t so sure of. I was in a safe learning environment, but at times, it felt that there was so much pressure to do my best at all times.
My experience as a whole was great. I learnt so much and even though the practices of my coop’s were different, they were not bad or wrong. However, they seem to influence me when I am in classrooms today. It is good, but I know that sometimes I need to rely more so on what I learned from professors. All that I have learned from many educators in the profession is helping me as I continue to learn and grow as a teacher.
I’ve heard many times from people that professors don’t know what it is like to be in a classroom anymore. They are not in the room with the kids everyday. They are at the university. These facts may be literally true, but I believe that professors still know a lot about classrooms today. Even though they may be formally removed from the classrooms, many are doing research that involves them working with students or having their university students working with kids. We all hear about how schools are doing, and we all have different practices. The type of classroom may change, and the student age may change, but there are still learners and there is still teaching and methods that will be used.
On pages 412 and 413, Cherland states three issues in teacher education that need to be addressed:
- Teacher educators will have to examine the assumptions underlying the nature of the field experience.
- Teachers will need to confront society’s model of the ideal teacher and demand support for the idea that the professional teacher continues to learn and to grow throughout his or her career.
- The public, including those people who run many school boards, will need to accept the idea that a teacher is a practicing professional, rather than a trained technician.
The third idea is one that we all need to remember.