I think you are missing a few critical issues here. I say this having taught in Michigan State University’s program, which is incredibly classroom based, with students in classroom placements from their freshman year, and culminating with a full 5th year internship. A “great program” which still — to be blunt — sucks.

It sucks because of three flaws:

A. It recruits “top” students, kids with 4.0 gpas and straight A high school backgrounds. And that is not what our schools need. We need academic diversity as much as any diversity. We need many more teachers who know our system is a failed one, and who will strive to change that system from day one.

B. It operates as a traditional school, with traditional grading, traditional lockstep pathways, traditional division of students by level. As I used to say, “Let’s all go down for another lecture on differentiation.” One professor there often said, “the hidden curriculum IS the curriculum,” and nothing is truer in teacher preparation. Everything we say is undone by everything we do.

C. It places student teachers into bad classrooms, even if with good teachers. Kids do not intern in the schools we need, they intern in the schools we have — well, worse — whatever schools will take our kids. They do not learn what is possible, instead the system is reified. Maybe lab schools are the answer? I’m not sure, but I know that more time with traditional teachers is not the solution we need.

In the end we need a new kind of professional, with a new set of goals — perhaps like our schools’ expectations — and we have to find a new way to get there.

  • Ira Socol — who has escaped back to K-12.

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