BIG IDEA: Teachers enroll in classes at their schools
Teachers have long been encouraged to take courses to enhance their classroom practices. Under NCLB, teachers have even been mandated to earn continuing education credits. In response to these mandates, many teachers have enrolled in college courses locally or over the Internet. In general this is a positive development for teaching, but the quality of some of these programs has recently come into question. In fact some teachers have lost their jobs in pay-per-credit schemes.
My suggestion is that teachers should go back to school—they should enroll in a course at the school they teach in. Over the years, many teachers have forgotten what it means to experience school from a student persepective. For example, imagine a high school English teacher enrolled in a biology course. The teacher assumes the role of student. She goes to class, takes notes, participates in assessments, and receives a grade. In the process she learns about teaching and learning from a student’s point of view.
However, it is critical that she move out of her comfort zone. It won’t work if she takes another English class because her content expertise will interfere with her learner stance. The task here is to immerse oneself in the role of student and to learn along with students.
Benefits of this approach are numerous—it breaks through teacher isolation, it focuses on learning, and it may even increase the quality of the instruction for the teachers who teach their class to other teachers. If I were back in high school, I think I’d enroll in physics or calculus or maybe art.