Teach for America is giving its teachers mini-headsets so that they can get a classroom assist when the going gets tough. Pretend we made a football joke.
Teachers-in-training will have their very own personal angel to discreetly coach them through new lesson plans, with the same ear-bud wiring that feeds live information to NFL coaches. Teach for America is hoping that private coaching will speed up the painstakingly slow process of teacher development, allowing teachers to get both tailored instruction and the experience of being at the head of the classroom, without risking a disaster for students.
“Once a teacher understands what it feels like to be successful, it takes root immediately,” Monica Jordan, coordinator of teacher professional development in Memphis City Schools,told Education Week.
The experimental group of teachers is willing, if hesitant. “I thought, what if they say something in my ear and I lose my train of thought?” said algebra teacher Cynthia Law. “And then I thought, so what if I lose my train of thought, I’ll figure it out,” Law continued, confidently, “I’m not a play-it-safe person. I’m willing for my kids’ sake to look foolish.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded technology is currently just used with an expert companion in a nearby room, but could easily be done from anywhere in the world.
Conceivably, the technology could allow even more exciting (and controversial) applications. For instance, Indian PhDs could one day be remote coaching AP calculus teachers, especially in cash-strapped schools forced to fill classes with unprepared teachers. This is especially likely since American educators have long wanted to use the successful math curricula of South Asian countries but lack the proper training.
Or, you know, we could just give teachers proper training.
All new teachers struggle in their classrooms. However, TFA knows that it has very specific issues with its teachers being unprepared to handle their classrooms and their curriculum. This, of course, has everything to do with the fact that TFA’s new teachers get a whopping 5 weeks of training, which isn’t nearly enough to prepare its teachers for a year of teaching in the classroom. This is one of the top reasons why TFA teachers do not stay in the program.
The problem with long-distance experts who aren’t in the classroom is that while they can tell you what to do with regards to following the curriculum, they probably won’t actually be able to help you teach. And if you’re having to rely on someone sitting in another room somewhere listening in on you all day long so that you can teach the material you are supposed to be able to teach, maybe you should be taken out of the classroom and the expert should be put in.
Really, though, we should be investing in education and especially in teachers. Ensure they get the training they need to take care of their classrooms. Pay them enough that the best and the brightest want to stay in the field. And please, please, please stop trying to put bandaids on public education with outsourced experts and 20-somethings with zero background in education who are just looking for something cool to put on their resumes.
You know what will really do wonders for our education system? GOOD. TEACHERS.
I’m just going to leave this one here.
So, I was actually one of the people lucky enough to be part of the test pilot of this program. My management was not a disaster by any means but just wasn’t where it could be (100% compliant, 100% of the time… or in that ball park).
They previewed video of my classroom and then came in and live coached me twice, a couple of days apart. It was IMMENSELY helpful, mostly because my planning was strong enough that they could really focus on tweaks and small changes that could take my class to the next level. The lead person for the team was an amazing woman who has worked closely with Lee Cantor himself and was able to target and address issues with incredible precision.
Assertive management is awesome and the live coaching is all about helping teachers use it as effectively as possible. It’s a cool trick to be able to pull of with technology since you are getting those extra eyes for a while, getting into the right zone and then when they go… it drops off a smidge, but is on a whole different plane.
So while I know PPT was passing this one along as an FYI, I really have to disagree that this is something for bad teachers and I am somehow damaging my students. I am a good teacher. I am not perfect, I am not as good as I will be, I still have tons to learn… but getting this pilot was about learning more of that.
(It also wasn’t them listening to me “all day.” The observations and debriefs were probably about six to eight hours over a week and has totally paid off.)
Good teachers and TFA teachers are not always mutually inclusive but they certainly aren’t mutually exclusive either. And when you protest that we need to keep the best and brightest in the field, that means how can we keep more of ALL new teachers in the classroom, TFA and traditionally trained alike. Especially when it comes to our most ill-served students, no matter the background, we are teaching in the same schools and often leaving those schools for the same reason. This shouldn’t be such an us-them issue.
PS Plug for TFA reading this— get the live coaching people in your classroom ASAP. It’s amazing.
We’ve been monitoring this debate as it’s gone on all day, but thought we’d show off this one personal anecdote from swampgirlrunamok. (Apologies if it’s been said before.)