Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pickles and Teacher Education

Artists, tradespeople and others that are left with a physical artifact of their work are lucky people. Today I made pickles - 25 pounds of cucumbers, a lot of salt and pickling spices, Bay leaves and many, many, many cloves of garlic. My computer screen is wrinkling its nose at me as I type!

Making those pickles each year and looking at the couple of dozen jars on the kitchen counter is very satisfying. I make muffins every once in a while and I get the same sense of accomplishment when they come out of the oven.

Many of us work at jobs whose outcomes are not quite so physical or identifiable. As a teacher educator I can only watch my students go off to their first jobs. Do they get that first job because of their preparation in our program? Are they successful as beginning teachers? And is that success as a result of the time they spend with me preparing for this job? Is any of their long term success attributed to our program?

The answer is truly we don't know. We hope they learn and become somewhat skilled as they move through the program. But we all know that being successful as a teacher is a very complicated and complex process - it would be impossible to absolutely link preparation with success.

And anyway just what exactly does success mean for a teacher? Clearly success for a kindergarten teacher is not the same as success for a high school business educator. And if we could decide on a definition of success how would we measure that success?

So as teacher educators we go on what we consider to be the best information around - a combination of research and our own practical knowledge. Thankfully our students aren't pickles - I know what a good pickle tastes and looks like. Part of the satisfaction of being a teacher educator is that every student is different - reacts differently, grows differently and becomes their own type of teacher. In the best of worlds we do our best to prepare our students for what they will face when they begin to teach and our students do their best to become skilled, knowledgeable and thoughtful about a career they want for themselves