One… Two… Three Questions About Education In BC

1. Is it time to flip the classroom on teacher education?Shadows - - Reema Faris

After receiving my B.A. from UBC in 1983, I went on to complete the one year professional teaching program.  To complete my course of studies, I was required to do three separate practicums, two in the Lower Mainland and one outside of it, for a total of eight weeks of classroom experience.  

As the saying goes, life is what happens when you make plans and I never did become a full-time classroom teacher.  Reflecting back, I wonder how I would have coped in a classroom with so little direct experience.  I’m not fully versed on the changes that have taken place with the professional programs since then, but I still wonder if teachers get enough of an introduction to the career they’ve selected.  

What if it’s time to flip the classroom on teacher education?  What if less time were spent on a  university campus and more time in a K-12 classroom?  What if student teachers were paid a living wage, worked during the school year, and did course work in the summer?  With such a model, would we benefit by having a second adult in a classroom to assist teachers with the increased demands of inquiry-based teaching and support students with their personalized learning?  Would we gain teachers who are better prepared for classrooms comprised of many students with special needs including many more English Language Learners?  Teachers who had more direct knowledge of the career they’ve chose?  In this way, would we be able to provide more staff to better support all students in their many and varied learning styles? 

2. What do parents want?

There are many things parents want and expect from the public education system.  I’m not going to launch into enumerating the laundry list of expectations, but here’s the one “request” which I believe is paramount.  Parents, I believe, would like the needs of their children to be assessed and met on a timely basis without having to bang on drums for attention or to wait and wait and wait and to have measures introduced much too late in a child’s progress and development.  Yes, this is an issue of resources, but it is also an issue of responsiveness in schools and understanding that the children losing out are not always those with the most easily identifiable needs.  The children who are significantly at risk, it seems to me, are those who may appear typical but whose needs, if neglected, result in bad behaviour and consequences much more severe than they might have been had interventions been introduced earlier.

3. How do we define school?

It seems to me that we have a picture of school as it was, as it is, and as it ought to be.  I think there’s general agreement that the most successful model will be one which is student-centered. If we agree on such a fundamental principle, why can’t we find a way to work together to build that model so that when talking about the world’s best school system, BC is referred to as often, if not more often, than Finland?