When it comes to teacher-training options, I consider myself lucky because I graduated from the Boettcher Teachers Program. Below are my three “must haves” for teacher training that made my teacher residency program so successful, with a final suggestion for improvement included at the end:
1. High bar to get in: The process to get into Boettcher was difficult. I had to prove I had extensive experience working with kids, write countless essays, gather recommendation letters, and pass the GRE and Praxis, just to name a few steps. Once I passed the initial screening, I participated in a grueling interview process conducted by a panel of interested parties and then discussed educational issues with other applicants as the interviewers observed. By the time this program accepted me, I had an immediate respect for my fellow teacher candidates because not only was this a selective program, but also I knew no person in their right mind would go through this process without being fully dedicated to the profession.
2. Good balance of practice vs. theory: Boettcher required us to observe and co-teach in a mentor’s classroom for a full year as we took our graduate courses. As I entered my first official year of teaching, I realized that my experience was invaluable. This feeling was reinforced as I spoke with struggling new teachers who came from other teacher-education programs that were heavy on theory and light on practice. These teachers wished they’d had more guided time in the actual classroom before they went off to teach on their own.
3. Strong and varied support: If the first two elements are what made me a strong teacher, this last part is what kept me a strong teacher. I firmly believe in continual support for teacher growth, especially new teachers. Boettcher tailored an induction program for our district and helped create a natural support network. I ended up working with fellows from my program, and being able to work with familiar and like-minded people was critical to my growth as a teacher.
What I would still like to see: More acknowledgement in teacher ed classes of the grit and grime of teaching. Teaching isn’t always wonderful; students aren’t always likable; and coworkers can be difficult. Too often, it seems like teacher candidates are supposed to ignore the negative aspects of teaching, only to meet them head on when they enter the “real world.” Teacher ed programs need to help their fellows have open, honest, and supported discussions about these subjects from the get-go. That way, the young teachers don’t feel the need to hide these frustrations when these issues arise—and they will—and the teachers will have a better idea of how to deal with these problems in a productive manner.
Kate Mulcahy, a Boettcher Teachers Program graduate, has taught for five years as an English & English-Language Learner teacher at Northglenn High School in Colorado.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.