Montag, 9. Dezember 2013

Teacher training - content or methods?

Just like there are different schools (i.e. primary and upper), there are different forms of teacher training. Regardless of how much politics influence the way education works, I still think more specific and individual attention could be brought to the way student teachers are lead down their path of professionalization.

Teachers of almost all subjects, obviously need to have some kind of knowledge basis for their particular subject. For one, teachers have to be able to build/form a lesson, based on the knowledge that the children should acquire, and it is also quite important to be able to answer additional questions somebody might have about a topic.

Teachers also have to know, which methods to use in order teach a certain topic, more importantly, the proper methods for the children. They might have to face the challenge of varying levels in class, or they have to adjust one method, because it just doesn’t fit the particular need for a class.

I would like to take up one of these two points. Especially, because I feel like I’m part of one, and I’m not having fun as a student (teacher) myself, the way I’m confronted with it now.

I’m going to take two personal examples from the last couple of years. One of my biggest passions, ever since I was young, is sports. It never really mattered, if it was a specific sport, it never mattered if I could only watch it on TV, I always enjoyed it. Even later, when I got older, not only did I participate in sports as much as I could, but I also got into coaching after a couple of years. With coaching in a specific sport, came trainer education and trainer certificates, where sometimes you get away from one sport specifically, but you focus more on movement and movement games. Now, in fairness, I might be different from other coaches or trainers, but for many specific movements, I don’t actually have to do and feel the movements myself, to be able to see what could be wrong with them and fix it. This can lead down a very tricky path - how credible can somebody be, if they never really tried it themselves? Well, the end result of sports movements should be that the athlete is able to perform them, without mistakes and economically. Maybe it is a deeper lying issue, but I personally don’t care how I can reach those results; if I get good and proper feedback, and it works, thanks to that, I will be happy. I don’t necessarily think the background of the trainer or coach really matters. The key thing to keep in mind: the coaches main goal is to get you to the end result.

As I mentioned above, there is a situation, which brings this whole big question to the forefront every time I’m involved. My second subject, besides English, is History and Social sciences. As you can imagine, History lessons tend to be very dry. Obviously History teachers have to have a very broad understanding and knowledge, since the topic itself is vast. But to be more specific, I’m in a teacher training program for 10 to 14 year olds. So to be very blunt, I don’t really care about all the details regarding wars and empires, I would really love to know, how I can make these topics interesting for children. Unfortunately these things never get mentioned, leaving me little to no real preparation for the things that I should teach, but at least I know a bunch of interesting topics in detail. I’m always surprised that most of the time our teachers never even taught in the same kind of schools we are going to teach in - which in turn wouldn’t be an issue, because it doesn’t really matter where you come from - it only matters where it leads us, but this part of learning for myself and not for my job is beyond me. To compare it to the previous paragraph, I think the key for a teacher is the same thing as for a coach - get you to the end result - but this time, the end result is that children acquire certain competencies and a knowledge base to be able to evolve, and either attend a higher education institute or get work, and I’m not sure if they would achieve those goals if I talk to them, or maybe let them read about history for hours on end.

In both cases I’m not a big believer in really having to do the actual ‘work’ (the sport or knowing specific topics), but I do think it is important to know how to get to the finish line. And especially in cases, where teaching and learning is involved, it is far more important to know how to teach, than what to teach.

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