Who Makes Teachers: Universities or School Districts?

Most people who aren’t in the education field would say colleges and universities.

Most teachers would say school districts, or schools, or classrooms.

I can testify that most of what I’ve learned about being a teacher has come through the school districts I’ve worked for. While college did prepare me in terms of teaching strategies and lots of real-time practice opportunities, as the years have gone by, new research has been done, and school districts have updated their teaching practices.

Of course, nothing helps you be a better teacher than the experience of teaching! Trial-and-error in the classroom is how beginning teachers pinpoint what works with students. However, being a part of a district that provides relevant professional development, planning opportunities, and coaching enhances a teacher’s growth.

Here are some programs and teaching strategies I’ve learned through my own school district:

– Balanced literacy/components of good reading instruction
– Writer’s Workshop
– Differentiation for ELLs
– Kagan Strategies
– Thinking Maps
– Using graphic organizers
– Developmental Spelling/Words Their Way
– Balanced math/components of good math instruction
– Science Kits/science inquiry
– Brain-based research

I appreciate being a part of a district willing to provide high-quality training for teachers. Here is my problem: Very rarely to teachers get the chance to debrief, to have time to reflect and examine the topics they’ve been trained on.

I almost feel like we need half a day each month set aside as a planning time. Of course, there already are so many inservice and planning days scheduled, so they’re not going to give us more! But often teachers’ planning times are filled with meetings, parent calls, and grading. Rarely do we get the chance to really plan well and prepare appropriate materials for student engagement. We never have the time to reflect on our own teaching and to find ways to incorporate new ideas.

I feel like teachers are asked to do more and more (this year it’s Common Core State Standards and a new rigorous teacher evaluation), to work harder and longer and smarter. And at the risk of sounding negative, teachers should get some kind of compensation for having to meet higher expectations. If not monetary, then time.

What do you think?

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