Tammie Schrader is a Science and CTE teacher at Cheney Middle School, Cheney, WA. Mrs. Schrader is a 2013 Hope Street Group (HSG) National Teacher Fellow. She is also a 2013-2014 National Science Foundation Researcher for implementing video games into curriculum, as well as a 2008-2009 Department of Education National Fellow. Mrs. Schrader teaches science methods at Gonzaga University and is a member of the Science Assessment Leadership Team for the state of Washington.
As an adjunct professor, I once taught a classroom management course to undergraduate teacher candidates. In class, I had all 27 students write 10 things they were thinking could happen to them in a classroom. I collected all 27 cards and started reading the behavior issues aloud. At the end of reading these cards, I had a student say, "Yes, but these won't all happen in one day." To which I replied, "I've had all these happen in one class period!"
It's crucial that aspiring teachers understand the "real world" realities that they'll face on the job, which are impossible to grasp without a strong student teaching experience. Unfortunately, preparation programs too often leave this invaluable experience until the final semester, when it may be too late.
In my education program, I heard many times that I would know during student teaching if I was really cut out to be a teacher. Student teaching? During the last quarter of my education? Why do we allow future professionals to wait until the final quarter of their education to discover if they are cut out for the world of teaching? We should be able to offer classroom exposure and experience early on in the preparation process. Otherwise, students may discover a wasted investment of time and money while going down a path that does not match their skill sets. Even worse is the idea that some students push through and end up in a profession where their heart does not lie or which isn't a good fit for them. This is far too great a cost.
I myself have had experiences with student teachers working in my classroom. Most have been positive, but one or two have been disheartening. At one point, I had to have a conversation with my principal about having someone removed. When he asked if I thought this person was capable of teaching my class, I had to tell him that I didn't think this person could even pass my class because she did not have enough content knowledge.
As a teacher of future science teachers, I believe that teacher preparation programs have a responsibility to provide candidates with strong student teaching experiences and exposure to classroom realities from early on, and they also have to be able to have honest conversations with teacher candidates about whether they're meeting the expectations associated with the teaching profession. The selection of academically talented and well-equipped candidates is imperative to building and retaining a quality teaching force for our next generation of students. But just as important is that new teachers learn exactly what is in store for them before "day one" through a high-quality student teaching experience.