I'm a huge football fan, and I have apparently been reading way too many education blogs this morning.
I read an article describing how much better quarterbacks were in the NFL when they sat on the bench for a year or more before starting. Basically, even if a quarterback had a higher draft pick, and therefore a higher perceived potential, they had significantly better results if they had some time to learn the ways of the NFL behind an experienced quarterback.
And some of the first-round picks who also waited, like Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer, have been downright exceptional.
"Since 2000, nine first-round picks started within their teams' first three games. Only Matt Ryan and Ben Roethelisberger have a positive TD/INT ratio in their career."
My conclusion from all this? In what is arguably the most important and influential of positions on an NFL team, only very few can succeed without additional training- even amongst those considered to be the most talented.
I think teaching is similar.
My college of education had a major focus on spending time in schools. From the first semester of education courses (which was generally taken spring of freshman year or fall of sophomore year), future teachers spend at least a short amount of time in a school.
Student teaching (15 weeks in the same classroom, for teaching independently for at least a few weeks) was obviously the biggest learning opportunity, but we had a semester where we spent two days a week in a school, learning from our professors and then visiting the same classroom. We also spent a semester tutoring two students in reading each week.
By the time I graduated, I had spent time in at least 4 different classrooms through the required program alone.
I found a stimulus-funded job in a school with low test scores. As an effort to give students an extra boost, the school was adding a second person in each classroom. For six classrooms, that person is also a certified teacher.
I am considered an assistant teacher. I'm certified, and treated as such, but my lead teacher is overall in charge. I'm lucky that Mrs. M is so great to work with. She treats me as an equal co-teacher whenever possible, and works with me to plan and teach. The situation feels, honestly, kind of like an apprenticeship- and it allows both of us to work in more small groups, keep the students paying attention, and share some of the load of a classroom.
I am lucky to start this way. I am thankful that my first year of teaching does not involve me staying at school until 8:00 at night. I am thankful that I'm getting a chance to sort of ease into the profession, while still learning and collecting materials and ideas from another teacher.
Yes, it sucks sometimes to be "sitting the bench." I didn't get to set up my own classroom, I don't get to change the classroom management system the way I want, and I am sometimes excluded from meetings I'd like to be a part of, but I can see how much easier it will be when I have my own room. I am learning so much.
Student teaching is meant to be like this, and it does help immensely. But I wish more schools had the money to hire teachers in this kind of position even after their student teaching. Not only have the students thrived with so much individual attention, but I think I will be a better teacher in my true "first year" because of my time on the sidelines.