Teachers Column

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Thousands of Los Angeles-area college students may be returning to public school this spring as part of a teachers' union campaign to recruit them into the profession.

United Teachers of Los Angeles announced late last year the initiation of its "Joy of Teaching" program, which will team the approximately 220,000 students enrolled in area colleges with city school teachers.

The program's immediate goal will be to convince the students to spend a day or two in the classroom as observers or assistants. The long-term objective is to turn that experience into a desire to try teaching as a career.

William Lambert, the union's director of governmental relations, said the initiative comes at a time when the Los Angeles Unified School District faces severe teacher shortages, and is designed to correct misconceptions about the field. Most college students do not consider teaching as a career, he said, because they only hear bad things about the education profession.

"We think that if we can turn on a share of these kids to teaching, then we've done something for ourselves and the community," he said. "With a hands-on experience they could see that teaching is exciting, that it's fun, that it may even be better than sitting in a dark room with a computer."

The union's proposal has been endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and California Superintendent of Education Bill Honig. A steering committee will be working with area colleges and universities and their student-body presidents over the next few months to encourage students to take part in the program.

To alleviate teacher shortages in Florida, the Dade County schools are creating vocational clubs for high-school students interested in teaching.

This winter, each of Dade County's 24 public high schools as well as a local junior high school will establish "Future Educators of America" clubs, based on the recommendations of a task force comprising representatives from United Teachers of Dade, the state department of education, the local school board, and Florida International University.

"We want students to be exposed to the many creative and dynamic possibilities the profession of teaching affords," said Anne Keithley, the district's chief recruiting officer for instructional staffing.

Efforts will also be made, she said, to find scholarship money for college-bound students interested in becoming teachers. One avenue is a new state program offering up to $4,000 a year toward tuition for students who agree to teach certain subjects. In addition, union officials are urging local businesses to provide at least one $500 scholarship per high school for a prospective teacher.

While some schools in the county have offered future teachers' clubs in recent years, there has not been a countywide effort to promote such organizations in more than a decade, union officials said.

Convincing "the best and the 4brightest" to become educators will have to be done "the old-fashioned way--through market forces," according to Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Speaking at a seminar on education reform at the University of Rochester late last year, Mr. Shanker said the high pricetag of the "big three" incentives for joining the profession--higher salaries, reduced class sizes, and fewer classes per teacher--will prevent them from being implemented on a large scale.

But more people could be attracted to teaching, he said, if working conditions were improved.

"If teachers are treated as mere hired hands, carrying out the orders of someone else's brain, we'll get very little from them," said Mr. Shanker. "They must become full partners."

The best teachers, he added, should help evaluate and counsel their peers, educate new teachers, and have university rank.

The seminar was held in conjunction with the inauguration of Guilbert C. Hentschke as the fourth dean of Rochester's graduate school of education and human development.

The U.S. Education Department has awarded 30 contracts to postsecondary teacher-training institutions under a new program aimed at improving the quality of teacher education.

The awards, announced in November by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, average $30,000 a year for up to three years. They require the institutions to use recent research on effective schools and teacher-preparation strategies to develop innovative improvements in teacher education.

The new program was authorized in the Education Department's 1985 appropriation for educational research and statistics. Seventy institutions submitted proposals.

In the past, said Mr. Bennett, "schools of education may not have made full use of research results about what works best in teaching and teacher education." The awards, he said, will give the schools a chance "to use research findings as a foundation for what is taught to prospective teachers--and eventually for what is taught to students in classrooms across the country."

Funded programs will experiment with a variety of approaches to teacher education, said department officials. These include: extending the normal four-year teacher-training program; providing additional internship time for student teachers, with closer work with master teachers and university professors; enabling prospective teachers with bachelor's degrees in a noneducation field to acquire on-the-job experience and skills; designing "laboratory classrooms" for prospective teachers; training principals to be more effective instructional leaders for first-year teachers; and examining the use of technology in teacher education.

The department plans to disseminate the results of the demonstration projects to more than 1,200 teacher-preparation programs and thousands of school districts.--lo

Vol. 05, Issue 17

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