Pre-Med… Pre-Law… Pre-Ed???

On the campus of most universities, you often hear students proudly express being pre-med or pre-law. They, and everyone else, recognize the journey of intense learning that lies ahead of them. MCATs, LSATs, The Bar, Residency, etc. become a large part of their world until they have reached proficiency. After all, they will be responsible for the lives of others. Right?

With education, this is not the case. Educators (teachers and administrators) are also responsible for lives but are quite frankly not afforded the same rigor to prepare them to be proficient teachers. I believe this is the unspoken root of the problems of injustice in education. With minimal training, educators tend to teach the way they were taught–creating cycles of lack or success. The readings of this week demonstrate that when teachers are required to take a deeper look at the institutional “-isms” of the education system, they are in a better position to combat the problem.

As Oyler (2011) stated, all educators play a role in social justice. Therefore, a truly multi-dimensional teacher preparation program would:

-Ensure that issues of social injustice are integrated in each course
-Include required courses that facilitate candid discussions on critical race theory (Picower, 1999)
-Offer a residency component that allows new teachers to have a true support group when actually facing the challenges they may have discussed in class and observed as student teachers. In order to institute true change, the task of building a support system can not be left up to the school (which may have already fallen victim to a culture of deficit thinking and low expectations) (Oyler, 2011). The teacher must learn to operate as a leader and be supported in doing so for at least two school years in order to ensure longevity. Otherwise, they may risk becoming an “idealistic” teacher that does not last past the first few years of teaching (Michalove, 1999).
Having gone through an alternative teaching program myself, I am also in full support of educators who become educators as a second career. I believe that my propensity toward social justice as a “idealistic” educator has influenced my quest to be a good teacher. However, everyone does not share my ideals. I do believe that the program that I went through was not rigorous at all. So much so, that when I became an Assistant Instructor for the same program, many new teachers were angry that I held them to higher standards than other courses. At this point, it was evident, that the institutional concern was to get bodies in the classroom–thus widening the achievement gap by hiring “babysitters” as opposed to educators who were committed to closing the achievement gap.

As I close, it is important to note that even as a second career, doctors and lawyers are still required to go through the full preparation process to ensure that they are adequately prepared to work with the lives of others. It is imperative that we begin approaching teaching preparation in the same manner.

-NCD