Frightening Revelation from Teacher Trainer


Subscribers to a monthly ezine I published* for teachers were invited to give some information anonymously about their teaching assignment and preparation for teaching nonfiction writing.  As I skimmed forms completed recently, one caught my attention.

The anonymous respondent, whom I’ll refer to by a feminine pronoun simply since most of my subscribers are female, said her first language is not English. That’s not typical of my subscribers, but it’s far from rare.

She also checked that she was “totally unprepared for teaching nonfiction writing,” and that she had taught writing for less than one year. Nothing unusual there. Most of my subscribers report less than adequate preparation,  though most have been teaching several years.

She indicated most of her students are between 18 and 24 years of age.  That’s not typical of my subscribers, but neither is it unusual.

What caught my eye was the subscriber’s job: “Supervise teachers/administer edu program”

That is more frightening than anything I saw on Halloween.

[* Writing Points ezine ceased publication in November 2013]

This School Grows Its Future Teachers

students in classroom

Teaching training programs are currently the focus of intense interest in the United States. Much of the discussion has focused on how to encourage “the brightest and best students” to go into teaching.

One of the most intriguing efforts to do something practical about the quality of prospective teachers is a high school program at North Middlesex Regional School District in Pepperell, MA, called the Future Educator’s Academy.

The two-course program allows students who think they might want to become teachers to find out what being a teacher really entails.

In Foundations in Education I, students research what the standards and frameworks are for the courses they would like to teach. The learn what hoops they would have to jump through to become a teacher, what work they’d do as a teacher, and what being a “good teacher” means. They follow that up with a short job shadowing experience.

Students who are still interested in teaching after the first course go to Foundations in Education II. They do an extended job shadowing while also studying topics like lesson planning, unit preparation, student assessment and classroom management.

In many teacher preparation programs, students would not get that kind of practical exposure until their junior year of college. By then, students might have too big a financial investment to feel they can change programs if they find out they hate teaching. And even students who are “born teachers” will have missed opportunities to see the hands-on applications of their academic study.

The Future Educator’s Academy strikes me as a practical—and highly replicable—for a public school to participate in shaping its future workforce and the future of education.

Photo credit: School by Minasi

New teacher preparedness kit

Starting a new school year is stressful for any teacher, but especially hard on first-time teachers. Cognizant of the stress newbies experience, a group of veteran teachers share their insights into classroom essentials that were not mentioned in education classes.

Here, in no particular order, are their recommendations and rationale for their inclusion:

  • An emergency kit you can store in your room. You probably won’t be allowed to leave the building during the day. Hit the travel-size items bins for basics.
  • A water bottle.  Refill daily and drink it according to the spacing of bathroom opportunities.
  • Your own mug and an extra for drop-in colleagues.
  • AA batteries for the remote for the VCR that absolutely will be dead on the day you dragged yourself in horribly ill and can barely function.
  • Your own box of tissues which you never, never let students touch. Keep it in your desk drawer. A 6th-grade teacher taught me this and it cut my colds in half.
  • Band-Aids and cough drops. Kids who are looking for an excuse to leave at least know that those two won’t work.  You’ll be able to tell if they actually need to go to the nurse.
  • A fan in warm weather.
  • A ream of copy paper for the days you must print something and the building is out of paper.  Make a habit of carrying it with you when you go to the copier.
  • A Tide stain pen.
  • A spare pair of pants for the day when the zipper goes on the ones you’re wearing.
  • A few postage stamps and an envelope.
  • An umbrella or plastic poncho.
  • Emergency food supplies for the days when you forget your lunch, don’t have time to go to the cafeteria, or stay very late at school. Store any food in tins or you’ll get mice in your room.
  • A tin of emergency “moral support”  chocolate to  give to  colleagues who’ve had a horrible day.
  • A little  astringent and make-up, if you wear it, for the days when you are the one who’s upset.

Have some recommendations to add? The commenting feature is open.


LaVonne Davis-Schenck, teaches French and Spanish at Cumberland High School in Cumberland, RI, is particularly sensitive to the problems facing beginning teachers as her future daughter-in-law is seeking her first teaching job.

Jennifer Henson’s sympathy for new teachers harks back to her experience in California’s compulsory program for beginning teachers, which she had to take despite her experience teaching in England. These days, she lives in Pleasanton, CA, and is training a volunteer ESL teacher.

Susan Tate, who retired after teaching  middle and high school Spanish and mentoring new teachers in Arundel County, MD, for 33 years, now lives and tutors in Mechanicsville, VA.