From the Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Hands-on is often the most effective way to learn.
It makes some sense then that those learning to be teachers would benefit from additional time in the classroom before graduating and taking their first teaching jobs. If assorted details and hurdles can be overcome, South Dakota likely will see more teacher candidates teaching for longer amounts of time before they are hired as certified educators.
Last year, 10 college seniors co-taught in Sioux Falls elementary schools in the first year of a grant-funded pilot program aimed at increasing their experience in the classroom beyond the traditional partial-year student teaching. When it was over, educators liked it, and seven of the 10 were hired for first-year jobs in the Sioux Falls district.
The effort is a recognition that the setting in which teachers learn should change from the college classroom to the elementary, middle and high school classrooms. Being an educator in today’s technical world with increasingly complex standards and measurements can be a challenge. A number of teachers quit the profession within the first five years. In addition to preparing and actually teaching a classroom of children, teachers also face more and more black and white measurements of whether they are doing their jobs effectively.
Despite all of the stresses, many educators love teaching. They are fulfilled, and they are good at it.
Strong classroom preparation can help more young teachers build their confidence and skills.
In general, the yearlong hands-on training makes sense. But those who run education programs at our universities and those who hire new teachers should put their heads together and think of ways to overcome some roadblocks.
Like other great ideas in our state, this switch in training needs money. If it’s a good program, we need to pay for it. Students who spend their days working deserve compensation in addition to experience.
Time in the classroom often means they don’t have time to work other jobs, yet they still have the expenses of paying for their college credits.
It might take creative thinking, but educators need to come up with a way to compensate the student teachers. Lower costs for those credits? A stipend? Outside financial support through grants or corporate backing?
While the Board of Regents hasn’t taken action on any proposal that has potential teachers spending three years on campus and one in a school district classroom, the concept seems worthy. We urge the university system to work out the details.