On Teacher Preparation

Education is an endeavor characterized by myths; we believe certain things about the work we do, but those are not based in observation or even reason. When I was an undergraduate student, I believed one could be taught how to teach. After more than 30 years in education, I am almost certain that most of what passes for teaching in classrooms has little to do with what is learned. I am quite certain tests are a lousy way to understand what a learner will be able to do with their new knowledge.  

Perhaps the most ridiculous myth that we (and this is a collective we that comprises educators, curriculum experts, employers, politicians, and book authors) believe is that we know what our students will need to know in the future. We proceed as if the information in the curriculum standards we follow, the textbooks we select, the presentations we prepare, are enduring. The reality is that information technology has been changing human cognition and communication for several decades. The world in which we are teaching our students did not exist when we were students, and the current world will not exist when they leave our schools.  

I’m not sure the education faculty who mentored me those decades ago when I first studied education understood that the degree to which the society was about to be disrupted by information technology. I’m not sure they understood the degree to which schooling was going to be disrupted by the emerging fields of cognitive and learning science. They understood enough about learning to know my future was unpredictable. They could not tell who, what, where, or why I was going to teach. They did know that I needed to be prepared to adapt to each situation as it presented itself, persevere through failures, respond to unexpected successes, manage unforeseen situations, interact with many different personalities, and learn how to use many models of photocopiers. They accepted to the responsibility to prepare my classmates and me it. I complained about it then, but I have been grateful for it for these decades I have worked in education.