Without fail, teachers gave their colleges and universities high marks. BUT. . . .
Teachers said there were areas of their preparation that could have been strengthenedfrom working more on computers to spending more time in real classrooms to learning more about some of the social problems affecting young people today. Teachers suggested a number of new initiatives they believed universities should consider.
Teachers also conceded that there were issues for which no college or university could have prepared them. For example, the university classroom was no match for the real-world challenges of gang violence, `mainstreamed' children and the never-ending demands of paperwork.
"College did not prepare me for the student whose mother was murdered by a jealous boyfriend; for the student who witnessed a drive-by shooting; for the student who was removed from her home because of an abusive father. These realities do not exist in textbooks, yet they are, sadly, all too often the realities that peoplewith real lives and real problemsbring into my classroom. Perhaps universities could in the future focus on teaching teachers to teach students with a lot of problems. I find that I fill a million roles in a dayparent, teacher, friend, hero, disciplinarian, counselor, etc. Teaching English, my specialty area, is often a secondary role. Perhaps universities could focus on how to fill the many demanding roles of teaching. Doing this would better prepare teachers to meet the pressing needs of their students."Lisa M. Shipley, 7th and 8th grades, Missouri
"No amount of lectures, books or student teaching could have prepared me for the enormity of teaching. However, the more experiences with children a program provides, the better. I think my college program could have placed more emphasis on children and the absolute necessity of commitment to them. Subject matter and instructional methods are very important to quality teaching, but without a strong commitment to children success is unlikely."Mark White, 5th grade, Nebraska
"Before I became a new teacher, I never realized the social dimension involved with instructing eighth graders. As students in the year 1996, my children are dealing with issues I never imagined when I was a 13-year-old. AIDS, abuse, neglect, drugs, and sex are `buzz words' I overhear in the hallways, classrooms, lunchroom, and library. As an individual, I personally do not deal with most of these problems because they are not direct issues in my life. Yet, as a teacher, mentor and friend, I have to deal with these issues every day. I have students who have been physically and mentally abused, whose parents have been removed from their homes because of drugs, and who have had family members and close friends die of AIDS."Melissa Luroe, 7th and 8th grades, Maryland
"I don't feel that my university could have better prepared me for the classroom. I learned many methods and theories of teaching, but have found that true teaching knowledge comes from experience. I am certain that I will continue to learn as long as I'm in the teaching profession. As we know, each day is filled with new opportunities."Melissa G. Lambert, 2nd grade, Oklahoma
Teachers cited several areas in which they felt unprepared for their first year on the job.
"I feel that my college education was very thorough, but nothing could quite prepare me for the planning and preparation it requires to accommodate students across five grade levels. I definitely have learned the value of peers in education. The students learn so much from each other."Conni Neugebauer, kindergarten-4th grade, South Dakota
"Staff training! Mainstreaming, full inclusionI had very little of this in college and then I had a multihandicapped child in my class." Scott D. Niemann, 3rd and 4th grades, Alaska
"While my college prepared me well for teaching, it did not prepare me for using technology in the classroom. I feel that I need more training in the use of all technology."Helen M. Wright, 2nd grade (inclusive), Mississippi
"I expected there to be a clear cut way to assign grades. At the University of Nevada, Reno, I learned how to assess individual lessons, but not how to decide between an A- or B+. I learned in several classes about using rubrics, but I didn't fully understand how to develop and implement one until I saw a demonstration in an in-service class last fall."Amy D. Weber-Salgo, 1st-3rd grades, Nevada
Teachers listed practical suggestions that colleges and universities could use in improving their education programs.
"I think that an internship at a crisis shelter or detention home would be an invaluable addition to the hands-on experience of student teaching. The huge number of youth affected by the gamut of social issues is hidden in most classrooms. On any given day I have no idea who was beaten the night before, who has eaten within the past 24 hours, and who is using illegal drugs just to make it through the day. A social work class and an internship at a drug crisis center would open many more eyes than mine."Delissa L. Mai, 9th grade, Wyoming
"Universities in general could help prepare future teachers by offering classroom management courses, by putting education majors in the schools earlier, by placing student teachers in settings that more closely resemble the assignments of typical first year teachers, and by providing a post-graduation mentor program."Stephanie D. Bell, 9th and 10th grades, South Carolina
"I think that colleges should require students to take a 'September Experience' before they student teach. That is, colleges could assign students to a master teacher for before-school inservice experiences. The student could then participate in meetings and the other mundane but needed projects."Thomas Muller, 9th-12th grades, Oregon
"It would have been ideal for my college to have instituted a mentoring program or to have aided students in establishing cohort groups. The experience of first year teaching can indeed be one of isolation and self-questioning. The opportunity to have had a support group of other graduate students would have provided me with avenues for in-depth discussion and for the brainstorming of ideas. I would also have benefited from learning about the varied experiences that my fellow students were encountering in their clinical and student teaching assignments."Jeannette L. Whaland, kindergarten, New Hampshire
"Creating 'career ladders' during an undergraduate program would be an excellent way for future teachers to experience their careers prior to college graduation. College students could choose a school or a county, and they could start creating links with students, teachers, and faculty. Just as my eighth graders love to relate school to 'real-life experiences,' so do college students. They could connect what they are learning inside college classrooms to situations inside elementary, middle and high school classrooms. In addition, new teachers could experience team teaching, school-wide team organization, and interdisciplinary units, as well as the K-12 continuum. Career ladders could also help provide new teachers with effective, experienced mentors and the opportunity to meet `real-life' students."Melissa Luroe, 7th and 8th grades, Maryland