Teaching Teachers 

I know many teachers dismiss those of us in higher education as “out of touch”. Those of us who left the K-12 classroom to teach teachers seem to lose credibility quickly.  However, the logic of this view would mean that experience is inversely related to expertise – and that is just not true. Let me explain.

Let’s consider teachers. We don’t think that teachers who have not been K-12 students very recently to be “out of touch”. Instead, we value the expertise and pedagogical content knowledge those teachers have gained in the years since they were students themselves. Yet, we do want to teachers who were effective learners (notice I didn’t say “good students”). If a teacher was not an effective learner, they likely do not understand their content well enough to develop the pedagogical content knowledge to become an effective teacher.

Similarly, we should expect those who teach teachers to have been effective teachers. If they were not effective teachers, they likely cannot hope to become effective teachers of teachers because they don’t understand their content (teaching). However, just like learning science is very different than teaching science, teaching science is very different than teaching teachers to teach science (that was a fun sentence). Just like many people who were effective learners make terrible teachers, many people who were effective teachers make terrible teachers of teachers. While being an effective learner is required to be an effective teacher and being an effective teacher is required to be an effective teacher of teachers, those attributes alone are not enough – practice, at the very least, is required.

Instead of having been “out of the classroom” for seven years, I believe I have been developing my skills as a teacher of teachers for 7 years. While I still spend a lot of time working with K-12 students, being a K-12 teacher does not qualify me to teach teachers. Teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for teaching K-12 students is hard-won and should be valued. Similarly, the pedagogical content knowledge for teaching teachers is hard-won and should be valued. I am a much better teacher of teachers today than I was 7 years ago just like I was a much better teacher of kids on my last day than on my first.

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6 Responses to Teaching Teachers 

  1. Allyson Olson says:

    Jerrid, you were one of the finest MS teachers with whom I had the privilege of working, and you expanded my thinking. I am certain that our future teachers are in excellent hands with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Like many connected educators, I find you to be such an epically connected teacher educator, I cannot imagine anyone on earth who could claim you are “out of touch.” Keep fighting the good fight.

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Matt Townsley says:

    Hey Jerrid. I have tremendous respect for you as a teacher of teachers and trust you were an excellent science teacher, too. A few thoughts/reactions to your post:

    1) Excellent point about higher education faculty honing their “teacher of teacher skills.” I hadn’t thought about it in that way before. Through Iowa’s teacher leadership system, I have seen three teachers in our district move from working with students on a daily basis to working with teachers. In a way, it is similar to the transition I made seven years ago from a classroom teacher to administration: some of the same skills are needed but when reality kicks in, there’s a different job description.

    2) Why do you think some higher education faculty have a reputation that does not speak to them being effective or “current” in their role? I have a few (untested) theories: First, some faculty are hired to do quite a bit of research and then some teaching along the way. As someone who recently finished a dissertation, I can attest that doing educational research requires a skill set that does not necessarily overlap with being an outstanding teacher educator. In other words, educational researchers employed to also teach, by nature of their job descriptions, may merely be fulfilling as aspect of their job. (On the flip side, an outstanding teacher of teachers could possibly be a mediocre educational researcher…some of them choose to work in less-research intensive institutions! Of course, there are plenty in higher education who research AND teach at a high level.) Finally, there’s an awful lot to keep ‘current’ on in education! New standards, long lists of research to sift through, and ongoing changes to state/federal accountability. A perception of higher education faculty in colleges of ed may be they do not “keep up” when in fact, they’re equally as current as the rest of us!

    Like

    • jerridkruse says:

      I think you’ve hit on several reasons many higher ed faculty are not seen as current. One I would add (and I think this applies to admin too): some faculty(admin) were not very good k-12 teachers either. :-)

      Like

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