Rebroadcast - Exploring Education: Teacher Preparation & Development

Aug 27, 2019

Credit PX Here

We examine how teachers themselves are educated, including how aspiring teachers are certified. We'll also explore how teacher training programs have changed to meet the needs and ambitions of today's students, and why many educators say professional development over the course of their careers is often not useful.

This show originally aired on August 12, 2019. 

GUESTS: 

  • Meg Cleary - Chemistry teacher at Hollis-Brookline High School. She graduated from Keene State with a dual degree – in chemistry and education.  She will be entering her third year of teaching this fall. 
  • Darrell Hucks - Associate professor of elementary education and Chair of the Education Department at Keene State College. He has worked as an elementary school teacher in New York City and his research interests include the schooling experiences of Black and Latino males, teacher education, and technology integration. He's the author of several books including Fostering Postitive Civic Engagement Among Millennials.
  • Susan Rourke - Chair of the English Department at Nashua South High School, where she is responsible for hiring and overseeing teachers. She also teaches English classes and has been a teacher for 30 years. 
  • Sarah Schwartz - Reporter for Education Week.  She covers curriculum and classroom practice and writes the Teaching Now blog.

Transcript:

This is a computer-generated transcript and may contain errors. 

Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy and this is The Exchange.

Today, our summer series Exploring Education continues. Each Monday, we're examining a different subject concerning schools, students and teachers. Topics chosen with help from you, our listeners. And this hour, we're looking at how educators themselves are taught as their first preparing to become teachers and ongoing professional development throughout their careers. We'll examine current thinking around what skills and knowledge new teachers need. Along with the increasing pile of subjects they're being trained on, from childhood trauma to suicide awareness to classroom safety. Today, an exchange preparing teachers as our series on education continues. And, of course, let's hear from you.

Laura Knoy:
Our guests are Darrell Hucks, chair of the Education Department at Keene State College and an associate professor of elementary education. Darrell's also worked as an elementary school teacher in New York City. And Darrell, it's nice to see you. Thank you for being here.

Darrell Hucks:
Thank you for having me.

Laura Knoy:
Also with us, Susan Rourke, chair of the English Department at Nashua South High School, where she hires and oversees teachers. She also teaches English classes and has been a teacher herself for 30 years. And Susan, it's nice to see you. Thank you also for being here.

Susan Rourke:
It's a pleasure to be here.

Laura Knoy:
And also with us, Meg Cleary, chemistry teacher at Hollis Brookline High School. She graduated from Keene State with a dual degree in chemistry and education. Meg will be entering her third year of teaching this fall. And Meg, good to meet you. Thank you for your time.

Meg Cleary:
Thank you so much for having me.

Laura Knoy:
Well, in all of you, as I said, listeners helped us pick the topics for this series, which is great and contributed a lot of thoughts before these shows began. So I'll be sharing those thoughts throughout the hour. I want to start with this one, though. One person wrote us to say, with 36 years of experience in the classroom, I can assure you you do not have enough hours to cover how the role of the teacher in the classroom has changed. This person closed out that e-mail with a smile. By the way. Thank you to that. It's a great point. And they're right. There's a lot to cover. So let's just tackle that person's main point, how the role of the teacher in the classroom has changed. And Darrell, to first. But what I hear from everybody. How would you answer that question? And related to our topic today, how has teacher education changed in response to that changing role?

Darrell Hucks:
Well, I think I would answer that by saying that there are very different challenges in today's schools and in today's classrooms that teachers are contending with. It's working with students with a variety of different needs. Students who have special needs. And you're working with a diverse population of students. And and there are so many other factors to contend with. You're also dealing with cultural differences, issues of socioeconomic status and that impact how that impacts how children learn and the access that they have. These are just some of the factors that I would say that make teaching today very different.

Laura Knoy:
And so all those changes for the teacher in the classroom, how much are they being reflected, do you think, Darrell, in the teacher preparation and education programs that you work on at Keene State?

Darrell Hucks:
I think that one of the things that we have been doing, Keene State recently is we have been focusing on getting our students into the field and getting them exposed to children early in the program. Typically in teacher education programs, students take their foundational courses for a few semesters or a few years. And they aren't they don't get into schools until the tail end of the experience.

Darrell Hucks:
We've shifted that Keene State, we have students going in freshman year into schools and working with children and working with families and engaging in those conversations with their teachers, incorporating teachers early.

Laura Knoy:
That's interesting because I remember when our kids were little, you know, towards the end of a young person's training as a teacher or education as a teacher, they'd come in their last year, they'd be the student teacher for a couple months. And that was kind of it. So you're saying freshman year on the ground in the class?

Darrell Hucks:
Absolutely. And an important thing to remember is that we emphasize the the building of relationships, the importance of that. Right. And so we want them to see that. So in order for them to do that, we need them in the schools and they are cultivating relationships with the teachers in the schools. We're making sure that they engage with the administration as well. Like how many times do teachers actually taught new teachers talk to principals and administrators early on that they're no longer intimidated my students when they go in later on. So they are bringing a skill set in their later years after this early exposure. That's very different. They're much more confident and much more self-assured. And that's what we need to keep teachers in the classroom.

Laura Knoy:
So teaching them about sort of the politics of being a teacher, dealing with principals, school boards, difficult parents and so forth. All right. So, Susan, you've been in the classroom for 30 years. How have you seen teacher education change over that time?

Susan Rourke:
Well, I applaud what Darrell was saying about changing the way that teachers are being prepared, because teaching is such a complicated and challenging career path that it's very problematic for teachers to have limited classroom exposure and experience until their senior year. I've seen student teachers come to my school and at the beginning of their student teaching experience, their internship experience, very excited about being an English teacher and as they come across the challenges that aren't necessarily expressed in the course curriculum at colleges.

Susan Rourke:
How do you deal with a homeless students? How do you deal with students who grew up and the 9/11 Columbine era and are terrified of things that many of us who are experienced teachers weren't terrified of when we went to school. Those are those intangible things. And young teachers come across those issues, come across those challenges and find that the psychological aspect, the social worker aspect of the therapist aspect of what being a teacher now entails isn't what they signed up for. And by the time they're seniors, it's very complicated for them to change course and say, oh, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Now I'm not so sure.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. So you completely agree with what Darrell said?

Susan Rourke:
Totally.

Laura Knoy:
Start getting in the classroom early.

Susan Rourke:
Right away.

Laura Knoy:
So you know what you're up against.

Susan Rourke:
In fact, I know the Canadian model for preparing educators is to get first semester teachers, first semester freshmen into the classroom immediately so that they can start to assess if this is really the field for them.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and here's a related thought from another listener who wrote. Teachers need to have training in classroom management, budget management, education law, mental health awareness. This listener wrote those topics are not really covered well in our current teacher education programs. And Meg, I'll turn to you first. You graduated just recently, a couple of years ago from Keene State. What do you think about that point that the listener makes?

Meg Cleary:
Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I think during your student teaching era and your methods development, you're not really focusing on the small, tiny details that are going to be explored as you become a teacher. It's really more about, you know, how do I present this lesson and how do I get the kids engaged in my lessons and all of these things and those things kind of fall to the wayside. You're not really thinking of, oh, yeah, some of these students may have some mental handicaps and mental disabilities and all these things that are going to be a big factor in you in your classroom environment. And you kind of just comes with more experience, I think.

Meg Cleary:
I didn't see it throughout my methods, experienced too much or my student teaching experience, unfortunately. So when I first got into HB Hollis Brookline, it was really like, oh, here it is for the first time. How do I deal with this? How are they able to branch out and seek my other mentors? How can I seek administration for themselves and through the counseling office? How do I deal with these problems firsthand? I think it's one of those things that's best to you know, it's hard to prepare for because each one of these cases is so individual. And you can't really I mean, you can prepare for it. It's good to have some background in it, but you just kind of have to deal with it as it comes up. And that's probably, I think, the best way of dealing with these issues in the classroom.

Laura Knoy:
What do you wish you learned, Meg, while you were still in school again? Just a couple of years ago that you didn't learn?

Meg Cleary:
Sure. I think the mental health crisis is something that idea with a lot. I see a lot of students who have anxiety. And I don't think I was really prepared to be like, oh, this is how we can provide some accommodations for you or some modifications for you. This is how we can go about the spacing of your projects and this is how we can go about the spacing of your assessments and all these other things. So I think anything to do with more. So I guess that really dives into the realm of special education. I really could have used some more benefit from that.

Laura Knoy:
Do you want to jump in Darrell?

Darrell Hucks:
I do. I think in terms of preparing teachers to deal with some of the issues that we've been discussing, we want to make sure that we have relationships with the schools that cooperate in schools that we're working with so that we can have access to classrooms. What other things typically do with my students that are in their methods and practicum classes is that we go in to the schools and we go into into different classrooms. They're each placed in their own classroom.

Darrell Hucks:
But I make sure that they have an opportunity to visit each other, see each other, teaching, spending time with the the group of teachers, not just their one that they're assigned to and how important it is. Or I think teacher educators to unpack what's happening in the classroom so I may have one student teaching upfront and then I may have the rest of the class in the back of the room with me. And as my student is teaching, I'm asking them questions and pointing out strategies that I want them to Rourke on that someone else is doing. So it's really important to get in and immerse yourself in there. There are no perfect schools right about and teacher education. There's a tendency to try to find the perfect placements. In other words, the easily managed placements.

Laura Knoy:
That's not how it's gonna be like.

Darrell Hucks:
It's not it's not helpful. It's not authentic. And then students are shocked into the realities of what they may encounter in schools. I think it's about how do we how do we build relationships with schools that need support from a teacher education program? Right. And there are a number of schools all across all across the state, across the country that need support. And so building these partnerships and relationships and helping them deal with the challenges. I know there that there are teachers now who are dealing with. Oh, my gosh. How do I manage a child with anxiety? How do I manage a child with depression? How do I manage a family that's dealing with these issues? Right. And so if we take a stronger role and take a stronger stance, I think as teacher education programs across the board, that's how we shift things. That's how we keep teachers because they'll feel more confident. They won't feel overwhelmed. Right. I hope you don't plan on leaving anytime soon.

Laura Knoy:
I want to remind our listeners that you can join us and then there's a lot to talk about as we talk about teacher preparation, education. And a little bit later, we'll talk about professional development as teachers engage with that further in their careers. So, Susan, your first. But anybody jump in. What's most important for students starting out thinking about maybe I want to be a teacher to think about as they engage in this field of study and notice. I'm not saying young people because some people become teachers at age 40 or 50. I interviewed a man last year who joined the teaching profession at 55. But those aspiring teachers. What should people think about when they think about do I want to enter this field or not? Do I want to go to Keene State or Plymouth for a teacher education program?

Susan Rourke:
Sure. Well, I'm speaking from the high school perspective, right?

Laura Knoy:
Sure. And you hire teachers, too, at Nashua.

Susan Rourke:
Indeed. And part of that process. Yes. So I would say the primary thing for teachers to think about as they begin embark on their career is passion for their content. You have to really, really love your content area, be it English or chemistry or psychology or whatever it might be. And you have to know your content backwards and forwards. You need to know the the depth and breadth of it. And you also haven't have to have an area of specialization. So that's, you know, no one important thing for teachers to think about. The next thing they need to think about is understanding that the job isn't merely standing in front of wonderfully attempt to attend to empty vessels of students or to wait to hear what you have to say. All tabula rasa thing. And you know, hang off of every word. You say that there's a very specific skill to engagement and having students be engaged in what you're saying, that it won't always happen. And that's a very real piece of teaching. It's not just, you know, the sage on the stage thing.

Susan Rourke:
And the other is that many new teachers and by new I mean not necessarily young, but new to the field are completely unprepared for the the paperwork, the behind the scenes work that is part of the teaching profession. You may work from six thirty in the morning until three thirty in the afternoon, but then you may go home. And after a quick break, you may work for another four or five hours. And that is a big piece of teacher burnout and a big piece of new teachers, young teachers saying, I had no idea that teaching was going to be this hard, sort of the bureaucracy, the bureaucracies. And, you know, I speak particularly from an English perspective. But, you know, the larger the class, the more paperwork they generate. And getting through all of their paperwork in a timely fashion to give them good feedback is very important.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and Meg and, Darrell, I hear from you, too. But I have to ask you, Susan, you said fundamentally an aspiring teacher needs passion for their content.

Susan Rourke:
Correct.

Laura Knoy:
What do you say to someone who does have passion for the content?

Laura Knoy:
But really doesn't feel they have the chops to be a social worker because everybody here talked about the inherent social Rourke aspects of the job today. Well, what do you say that a person.

Susan Rourke:
I say bring them in for some sort of a, you know, a short practicum, do some kind of substitute teaching long, you know, a long term sub. Give it a try with somebody who is standing there behind you as a safety net to see if it's even in the cards. You have to let people get in front of a group of kids and see how they do. It's to a certain extent a baptism by fire. And it has to have all of those safety nets around it.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Makes nodding as a newly minted teacher, what would you say to a friend, Meg, who said you kind of want to do what you're doing? I want to get into teaching.

Meg Cleary:
Yeah. I get this question actually a lot from my friends who seem to watch me enjoy what I'm doing. And the thing that I always advise them is, especially at a secondary level, especially at the high school level, is the best success that I had. Preparing my own self was tutoring. I tutored throughout my entire collegiate career. I was a chemistry tutor from my freshman year all the way to my senior year.

Meg Cleary:
And for chemistry, it's really easy because the content doesn't change as you basically go up, it just gets a little bit more involved. And so really working with the gen ed gen chem students throughout my career at Keene State prepared me overwhelmingly to teach a high school chemistry course. And I'm assuming it's probably really similar for English if you can, you know, sit down with kids and advise them. This is how you should be writing. This is how your grammar structure should be forming and really bringing it down to the bare bones basics and having that fundamental understanding of what's happening. That's how you're gonna be the best. Plus, inherently, you're gonna start inter interacting with students and you're gonna say, OK, well, this is how they're reacting. When I presented this way. This is how they react when I present it this way. And it kind of gives you a little bit of leeway to figure out, oh, yeah. If I presented this way, they're going to be more successful.

Laura Knoy:
It's one on one instead of that terrifying moment where you've got, you know, 25 absolute sets of eyeballs looking at you.

Laura Knoy:
How would you answer this question, Darrell? When someone sits down and says, I think I'm going to apply for that teacher education program at Keene State, what do you want that person to think about?

Darrell Hucks:
Oh, I want them to think about who they are as a learner, who they are themselves as a learner. What what past experiences have they had in their own schooling? I think that's really important to have that reflective practice piece to start that off with someone who's interested in teaching. Typically, what I experience is I encounter new students who will say to me, oh, Dr. Hugs, I love children. And I say, yes, that's wonderful. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you will be a good teacher, right? Loving children, having a love for children, but also understanding that child children can be challenging. I think new teachers often want students that they're working with to be their friends.

Darrell Hucks:
All right. And sometimes you have to make tough decisions on their behalf and getting them to understand that it's really about supporting them, holding them accountable. Right. And a good way. Right. There's nothing wrong with that discipline. It's not a bad word. And I think caring for them authentically. Karen. All right. Caring. That means that I can hold you accountable. That's important.

Laura Knoy:
All right. We'll talk a lot more after a short break. And we will also turn to the issue of professional development, the kind of coursework and so forth that teachers receive throughout their careers. All that's coming up. And we'll start taking your calls at 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange, I'm Laura Knoy today. Teacher preparation and development as our summer series Exploring Education continues. Let's hear from you your questions and comments about how teachers today are educated. We have three guests in studio. Darrell Hucks is here, chair of the Education Department at Keene State and an associate professor of elementary education. Meg Cleary is with us, chemistry teacher at Hollis Brookline High School. She graduated just a few years ago from Keene State. She'll be entering her third year of teaching this fall. And Susan Rourke is here. Chair of the English Department at Nashua South High School, where she also hires and oversees teachers and teaches English classes. Susan has been in the classroom for 30 years. Before we turn to the issue of professional development, because that's another part of this. Teachers don't just graduate from a teacher education program and then that's it. Susan, I want to ask you and ask everybody how they came to teaching. So, Susan, you first you came to teaching in a less traditional way. Tell us about that.

Susan Rourke:
It was a little unorthodox. I actually my career immediately out of college was in book publishing. I worked for a little brown and company in their marketing department. And as my division was sold to another publishing company and moved to the Midwest, I was in sort of a crisis of what do I do now? Very coincidentally, there was an English teaching position that opened up mid-year at my local high school, which was Nashua high school. And word came through the grapevine and somebody called me on a Friday and said, can you come in on Monday just for a couple of days until I find someone who is certified who can teach? Because I'm not certified. I was not certified. I was an English and theater arts double major with a medieval history minor. I really was not trained to be a teacher at all, had never taken an education course.

Susan Rourke:
So I went in on a Monday. I had friends and relatives in the department and I kinda liked it. And, you know, I I won't bore you with all the details, but 30 years later, here I am. Obviously, I had to go and take courses to become certified. And in fact, I have three certifications now in English, general special ed and learning disabilities. So it's all worked out in the end. But mine was a a practicum, a baptism by fire. I was in the classroom for virtually two years before I had a piece of paper that certification that said I was supposed to be there.

Laura Knoy:
Well, a little bit later, I'd like to talk about how people enter their profession, not from a traditional teacher education program like one of the ones here in the state, including Keene State. But how about you, Meg? How did you come to this career?

Meg Cleary:
I think it's just always been something that I was interested at. And even when I was really young, I remember in fifth grade being like, I'm going to be a fifth grade teacher when I grow up. And then I kept going through the schools and throughout, you know, middle school. I was like, oh, I want to be third grade. And then I got to high school and I realized that high school was awesome. And then the content that you're learning in high school was really, really fun. And I thought to myself, I'm going to be a history teacher when I grow up and it's gonna be the best thing in the world. I had some phenomenal history teachers at Manchester Central and I was just like blown away. And then I got to chemistry and it all kind of changed from there. I remember taking AP chemistry my my senior year, my chemistry teacher, Jane Raymond pulled me aside and she's like, you got to teach chemistry.

Laura Knoy:
Really. What a great story.

Meg Cleary:
And so here I am a few years later graduated with chemistry in secondary ed, and I'm teaching chemistry.

Laura Knoy:
Wow, I hope she's listening.

It's a great story.

Laura Knoy:
So, Darrell, in addition to running the education program at Keene State, you worked as an elementary school teacher in New York City. So how did you come to that?

Darrell Hucks:
Oh, well, I came through sort of an alternative route. I was actually working in the fashion industry before I came into teaching and got really bored with with fashion. And I remember seeing an ad in the newspaper that New York City at the time was looking for new teachers that were going to hire new teachers. And you just needed to go down to the board of Education and bring your transcripts. And I did that. And I sat in one room with a number of people.

Darrell Hucks:
Then I sat in another room with another people and they moved to another room, another larger group of people. The groups just kept getting larger.

Darrell Hucks:
Finally, someone came in and sat at a table up front and called us up individually, took a look at our transcripts and 2, seconds, said, OK, you can teach elementary school, gave me a list of schools to contact myself, and I said, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Darrell Hucks:
I'm not even certified certified. You don't know who I am. I mean, I know who I am, but you don't know who I am.

Darrell Hucks:
And so I said, I don't think I want to go this route. And then I came across a fellowship program that was called Teachers for Tomorrow. And it puts you placed you in a classroom with a cooperating teacher for a year. And I thought, oh, what a great way. Now I can go on field and get my feet wet. And I sort of did that for a year. I also applied to the program at Columbia University at Teachers College, and everything just sort of fell into place. Once I got moving, the train was flying.

Laura Knoy:
Well, so do you think that would happen today? Darrell, today, because I looked on the Web site, the Department Education website, to prepare for the show and obviously all sorts of certifications which, you know, makes sense. You I know people should know what they're doing, background checks. I mean, all this stuff would that happened today, that story that you just told us?

Darrell Hucks:
I think so. I really I think I think it's possible. I think the issue is, is the program that I was involved and it was the funding for it. We all got a small stipend as well. And I think that's the challenge. All right. I think we can engage in those conversations and bring produce more alternative routes into education, because there are so many wonderful teachers in the world that don't know that they're teachers. And so how do we tap into that population? We need to build different structures and weren't the ones that exist.

Laura Knoy:
Okay. Let's go to our listeners, all of you, again, the number here in The Exchange as we talk about teacher education, training development is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And first up is Svea calling in from Dumbarton. Hi, Svea. You're on the air.

Laura Knoy:
Welcome.

Caller:
Hi. Thanks for having me.

Laura Knoy:
Sure. Go ahead.

Caller:
I just wanted to say there about an opportunity that we actually have in New Hampshire for new teachers specifically. I am a teacher myself. I've been teaching for about 10 years and myself and a number of other new teachers decided that new teachers really need the courts. Now, we started something called the New Teachers Retreat, and we've had three very successful retreats. We have the 19 State College every summer and we have experienced teachers with about five to 10 years of experience delivering workshops and mentoring and support to new teachers that come and stay with us for the weekend at Keene. And it's been a lot of fun. It's been really successful. And it is something that's available for new teachers. A lot of times the TV that schools bring in from outside consultants that may or may not know what new teachers really need. But since we have teachers delivering this to other teachers, we feel like we're really well equipped to give the new teachers that the content that they really do need.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, it's great. Svea. Thank you for calling in PD, meaning professional development. Go ahead, Darrell.

Darrell Hucks:
Hi, Svea. I just wanted to add in terms of offering professional development to new teachers and to actually students as well, because we want to think about professional development is starting from when they when they enter into the program and beyond. Right. So so one of the things that another another option that we have a keen state for professional development for our current students and for our former students and alumni is that we have the Honor Society, the Education Honor Society, Kappa Delta Pi has been hosting for the past eight years, a professional development conference called the Inspiring Conversations in Education Conference. And so what that conference does is it brings back alumni from our pro programs. Oh, that's interesting to share our workshops. Right. And so we want to make sure that our students are connecting with former former students as well. They know what's out there. They are also closer in age than many of the people who are teaching their course. That's right. With them. So the connections are there and we are now going into year eight. And I think it's just it's been a wonderful opportunity and it continues to grow. And the relationships that get built are really, really important because those alumni are our future cooperating teachers.

Laura Knoy:
Go ahead, Susan.

Susan Rourke:
So what Darrell and Svea are talking about is extremely important. There's a saying among educators that the best professional development is just down the hall. In other words, speaking with like minded content area specialists who have a little bit more experience than you, but absolutely encountered the same challenges and the same curriculum every day. That is really meaningful professional development. So to get teachers together in the retreat and and, you know, talk shop is wonderful.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Svea, thank you for the call. And speaking of professional development, I want to bring another voice into our conversation. Joining us now on the line is Sarah Schwartz. She's a reporter for Education Week. She covers curriculum and classroom practice and writes that teaching now blog. And Sarah just completed a whole series on professional development, asking teachers how they feel about it. Sarah, thank you very much for giving us your time. I really appreciate it. Well, your series, Sarah, found a fair bit of unhappiness among teachers about professional development. What were some of the common complaints that you've heard?

Sarah Schwartz:
A lot of teachers mentioned that their experience wasn't taken into account when their school or district planned professional development. So, for example, teachers who had decades in the classroom were sitting through the same sessions as first year teachers. One math teacher in New York who had 13 years of experience talked about this one workshop where one of the lessons was how to write a class objective. And he'd been through that same workshop every year he'd been teaching.

Sarah Schwartz:
So he was far past the point where it would have been helpful to learn again how to write a class objective. So teachers wanted some differentiation for experience. Another big issue, which another Edweek reporter, Evie Blad wrote about as part of this series, was when professional development hours were used for emergency preparedness or school safety training. So state legislatures and school districts mandate certain teacher trainings on a wide range of topics. Some suicide prevention, some emergency evacuations, sometimes even things like how to deal with kids food allergies. So teachers completely agreed that these issues were important, but they wanted these discrete trainings to be put in a little bit more context. And they also wanted more time to really dig into bettering their instruction, which is what they felt professional development should center on in the first place.

Laura Knoy:
So they wanted professional development in their subject area. Sarah And instead, the training seemed to be about, you know, drug awareness and and suicide prevention and so forth. So important. But. Teachers were saying, you know, I want something related to my actual day to day job. Right. Exactly. Another frequent comment you heard from teachers and I thought this was so interesting, Sarah. Professional development doesn't treat us like professionals. What do they mean by that?

Sarah Schwartz:
So one thing that came up again and again was teachers said they hated being lectured to like most of us would. I imagine, especially as the same principals who planned the lectures would tell them never to talk with students for an hour straight. So the irony there also felt like a little bit of an extra dig.

Laura Knoy:
Got you. Oh, sure.

Sarah Schwartz:
Yeah. You also mentioned timing. So professional development is sometimes planned for the few days right before school starts. Just because it's a time when teachers are in the building, but students aren't yet. So all the teachers are sort of in the same place. But teachers are really busy getting ready for the first week of school then, and they may not have time to integrate what they've learned.

Laura Knoy:
So teachers told you their plates were heaped and unwieldy legislatures keep on adding requirements and never taking any away. And again, teachers say, of course, I need to understand emergency evacuations, especially given, you know, the unfortunate scenarios that we've seen concerning student safety and in some of our schools.

Laura Knoy:
But what the teachers say to you about what they wanted to do with that, to do with these sort of how to do the professional development in their field chemistry, English, but also deal with the emergency evacuations and the school safety and so forth.

Sarah Schwartz:
Right. So it's tricky because professional development hours can often be sort of a zero sum game if if schools and districts are taking away time to cover things that are very important. Like, for example, in New Hampshire, specifically, the governor just signed into law this month, actually a bill that mandates suicide prevention training for all teachers and school staff. And so so teachers say these kinds of things are are very important. But when these trainings are added in. They have to take some time out, perhaps out of more instruction focused training. So I think one thing that teachers really wanted was when they do have that time for further instruction, focused training. They want it to really count. So they want it to be relevant to their subject area specifically, if possible. They want some time to work in small groups or one on one with an instructional coach, because they really want to make sure that the limited time they do have has to do with what they're doing in the classroom and isn't sort of more.

Laura Knoy:
General, one of the articles in this series, Sarah, really hit on the head the frustration that teachers have with how the approach is handed down by administrators and school boards or politicians keep changing. We're constantly switching approaches. One teacher told you what kind of approaches are they talking about there, sir?

Sarah Schwartz:
So really they're talking about instructional approaches. So teachers told us that that certain teaching methods seemed to sort of come in and in and out of fashion like fads, and that their administration would pick up one to really push one year and then drop it the next. So one high school science teacher in Maryland, she said she thought it was really important for professional development to acknowledge that teachers already have a sense of what works and what doesn't Rourke in their classrooms. And it wasn't that she was opposed to innovation or to strengthening her skills, but she wanted the trainings that she was given to build on the skills that she'd already been developing for years, rather than feeling like professional development facilitators were coming in and scrapping everything that she'd been doing and telling her to start from scratch.

Laura Knoy:
Kind of felt like flavor of the month.

Sarah Schwartz:
Yeah, exactly.

Laura Knoy:
I've heard that complaint from teachers. Last question for you, Sarah. And again, thank you for your time. What else jumped out at you from working on this series?

Sarah Schwartz:
So I guess I'm going to contradict myself a little bit now because we've been talking so much about how teachers want instruction focused, professional development. But another thing that they said they really wanted was strategies for managing what can really be a high stress job. So they wanted training on how to handle that stress, how to manage their emotions, especially in front of children, things like what happens when a lesson falls flat. How do I react? How do I bounce back? They wanted support with those kinds of challenges as well.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Really interesting, Sarah. Thank you very much for being with us.

Sarah Schwartz:
Thank you so much for having me on.

Laura Knoy:
Sarah Schwartz, reporter for Education Week, who covers curriculum and practice and writes that teaching now blog. Again, a number here in The Exchange as we focus on teacher education and professional development is one 889 2 6 4 7 7. That was so interesting to hear from Sarah and Susan. I just wonder what came up for you when Sarah was talking. How teachers feel about professional development? Well, she.

Susan Rourke:
She hit a number of really important points. Struck a chord with me. One is the one size fits all professional development. New teachers and English teachers and chemistry teachers and special ed teacher ed teachers don't necessarily require the same kind of professional development. So it should be laser focused on level of experience content area. Another thing teachers really want are strategies. They want to go to professional development and glean something that they can then introduce into their classroom the very next day. We tend to get a lot of theory in professional development meetings. Chances are educators, whether they are experienced or brand new. Have all of that theory. They've read all the materials already. We want something practical. And there is that sense that she said of teachers not being treated like professionals.

Susan Rourke:
Sometimes. Sometimes we are spoken down to, sometimes we are lectured at. Give us material to read in advance. Will read up where scholars were students and then get down to business during the professional development experience.

Well, after a short break, Meg and, Darrell, definitely get your thoughts and we'll keep taking your calls. Our number here in The Exchange is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Stay with us.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange I'm Laura Knoy tomorrow on our show. Hate speech online. And when it leads to intimidation and violence, that's Tuesday on The Exchange this hour. It's the third in our four part series on exploring education. And today we're looking at teacher education, ongoing professional development. What do teachers need to know to be successful in today's classrooms? Send us an e-mail. Tell us what you think. And Meg Cleary, Darrell Hawkes, Susan Rourke. Let's go right back to our listeners. And Eileen is calling in from Peter Birrell. Hi, Eileen. You're on the air. Welcome.

Caller:
Hi. I'm a retired special education teacher and I actually taught in Massachusetts, but. When I went, I was a mid career change teacher, and so I graduated at 46 in the year 2000. And at that time, the inclusion model for special education was a special education teacher and a general education teacher in the same classroom all day. And it was a wonderful model. But most schools couldn't fund it. And so I do think that all teachers should be certified in both special needs and their general education certification. I mostly did elementary school, but I had experience on all levels.

Laura Knoy:
Eileen, if I could ask you a quick question. I think it's so interesting that you came into teaching at age 46. How easy or hard was it to make the transition in terms of your own education, your certifications and so forth?

Caller:
Well, I was formerly a nurse, a registered nurse, but I I went to school at a time when they didn't really have bachelors degree bachelor's degrees for nursing at that time. It was just diplomas that you got. And so I would have had to go and get a degree anyway. I I did fine at school because I'm just. I mean, I enjoy school, so. And my daughters, when I told them I'm on teach and I said, well, you can. That's what you do every day. They might as well get paid for.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, it's good to hear from you, Eileen. And to you, Darrell, first, please. How often do you see in your program at Keene State College?

Darrell Hucks:
People in their mid 40s, like our caller coming in and starting to see more and more actually students are coming back that are mid career, that are changing careers and coming back, or they started off taking a few education courses when they were younger. And now they want to come back in and pursue their teacher certification. And so we're dealing with a number of new people that are coming our way that are falling into that age range. Yeah.

Laura Knoy:
And what are the sort of perhaps benefits or challenges of coming into teaching, you know, mid career?

Darrell Hucks:
Well, I think life experience, right. Is really important. And I think there is a certain level of confidence that comes with being older and having survived or having had your degree in another area. I think also sometimes, you know, these are people that are are known in their communities. And so that's a really good important thing for them to be able to go back into into their home communities and teach. The connections are already there. So you capitalize on that. I want to I do want to comment about one thing that you said about having this special educator and the general educator together.

Darrell Hucks:
I think that is an amazing model and it's one that I discovered in and sort of after a negative incident that happened. I had students that were being pulled out of my classroom. And one day I had a student that was pulled out of my classroom to go off with the special educator. And I remember giving the assignment that we were working on in class to them and for them to continue. And I just so happen to be on a prep. And so I went looking for my student, you know, because they forgot something. And I walked in and discovered that they weren't working. And the person was not working with them. And so I made a decision at that point that anybody that's going to be working with my students, you're going to be working with my students and my presence in my classroom, I would make a space for you and we could team up and teach together. And so I turned what was a negative moment into a positive moment. And it really benefited both my students and it shifted things for the dynamics with that person.

Meg Cleary:
Yeah. Well, Meg, what do you think? Dealing with a range of skills, a range of learning styles that our caller Eileen raises. I just wonder what what you see and maybe what advice you would give aspiring teachers. Sure.

Meg Cleary:
I think in the sciences especially, you're going to see a lot of people who worked in industry coming back and coming and saying, hey, I want to teach now. I've spent 40 years and, you know, physics and I've been working in a lab for so many years and I'm bored. I want to do something more fun. Maybe 40s too long. I think probably more around 10 years, 20 years in there. One of my cooperating teachers when I was at Cornell had worked in industry in chemistry for a long time, had kids and then decided I need to, you know, be here for my kids. And I think the best way to do that is to become a chemistry teacher. Wow. That's interesting. Yeah. And I think that's a great way of doing it. They're obviously really involved in their content and they really know it front and back. And I think based off of what Darrell said is they really need to know at that point, is this going to be, you know, the best the best career move for me? And do I have the ability to be a teacher as well? If I'm going to go from, you know, being an industry, being in a lab to going to a classroom where it's a lot softer and you have to, you know, prepare things differently. And it's not harsh science. It's it's soft. And you need to, you know, be able to Rourke with students. You need some serious verbal skills younger than you. Yes, exactly.

Laura Knoy:
How do how is that person doing?

Meg Cleary:
Oh, her name was Maura Milne. She was an absolutely phenomenal teacher. I aspired to be here one day.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Kind of gets to what Darrell said. There are a lot of teachers out there who don't know their teachers. Yeah. Right. So that's a really interesting example. Thank you, Eileen, for the call. And let's go back to the phones. David's calling in from Effingham. Hi, David. Go ahead.

Caller:
Hi, good morning. I'm gonna follow up on just what you guys have been talking about. I was. I came out of industry in a different method. I was a heating, ventilating, air conditioning service technician. When I started, the United States Air Force went through their training. And after 13 years in the in the field, I started teaching at a vocational high school in Norwich, Connecticut. And having that content base. I don't care if it's here. If you're a shop teacher or a math teacher, the kid.

Laura Knoy:
David, are you still there? We just lost your comment there. Go ahead.

Caller:
Yeah, yeah. I'm on my cell phone in the cabin.

Caller:
The kids know if you know your content, whether you're an exact teacher or a math teacher, you've got to be able to convey that to them. And, you know, having that background in the trade and then moving into the classroom was long. But one other thing about content. I also talk about structure. And I've talked to former students and teachers in Norwich Tech. And, you know, having structure in their classroom is so important. So those kids, you know, know the rules. They know what you're supposed to what they're supposed to be learning. And that structure is so important. And I think I got a little bit of that from the guy, you know, Uncle Sam and the United States military and the Air Force, because the kids respond to that structure in your class. And so that's so, so important.

Caller:
Well, I just want to make that comment.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Good to hear from you.

Caller:
After 28 years in the shop that, you know, isn't going to be my first summer not having to go back to school.

Laura Knoy:
It's good to hear from you, David, and to Susan on this idea, this theme that we're hearing from a couple people of folks entering the profession. Mid career.

Susan Rourke:
Sure.

Susan Rourke:
Well, so each March, the national school district holds a teacher's job fair. And I tend to interview, you know, anywhere from a dozen or 15 aspiring teachers during this job fair in June. It takes 18 March. It takes place over several hours. And I've always met wonderful candidates. In fact, I've hired some of them or recommended that they be hired. But there are always a few people who show up. And I think this is something very specific to my content area. But there are always people who show up and say, I've always wanted to be an English teacher.

Susan Rourke:
And I ask them why? Because I look at their resume and I don't really see anything that sort of, you know, points to that destination. And they say, oh, I I love to read or I keep a journal or, you know. And those are the types of things where I have to have a very kind but direct sort of redirect conversation with them saying those are good indicators, but that's not enough. And here are my recommendations to you. I often recommend that they get themselves on a substitute list and try to get into a classroom and see how they do that. They take a, you know, a course or two locally in literature or writing that, you know, they really push themselves to do more than journal writing, for instance. And I think because everybody reads and everybody can write to a certain extent, a lot of people think that, well, it must not be that hard. I can be an English teacher, too. And it's it's a conversation that has to be approached gently but very clearly, deeply. I want to jump in on that.

Laura Knoy:
Darrell?

Darrell Hucks:
I think I would agree with everything that Susan just shared. I think, you know, sometimes people when you see someone teaching and it had it may look easy, right? When you see someone who's really good at teaching, it looks very easy. But what people often don't see is the level degree of preparation that is involved in delivering that that lesson or our content to students. My students often see me in the classroom and try to replicate some of the things that I do without the cuts, without the understanding of the content. You have to be you have to understand the box very well in order to teach outside of the box.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, that's a really good way to put it. And this gets back to what we talked about, right? The beginning of the show, Passion for the Content. We talked earlier about professional development. And here's an email. It came in from Rosemary and Rosemary. I won't read the whole thing, but thank you so much. She says, I started as a study skills and history teacher.

Laura Knoy:
I've moved to technology integration so much of, quote, educational product that is sold to schools as, quote, professional development around technology and 21st century skills is a marketing blitz with no research to support efficacy. Rosemary says there is less and less information about how we learn and that we do need paper and we do need hand right in the learning process. Absent any other obstacles or disabilities, Rosemary says using technology wisely to support your Rourke should be a means, not an end. And boy, we could do a whole hour on technology in the classroom. But I'd like to ask you, Meg, what you learned in your teacher education program about the use of technology in the classroom or how you use technology in your classroom today.

Meg Cleary:
Sure. And for I'll just say it straight out. I hate technology in the classroom. I don't like computers in the classroom. I hate cell phones in the classroom. I actually handwrite you can ask all my students. I handwrite all of my notes. The board still, because I find that that works for me. It's a pacing mechanism for me, especially in chemistry. I could just put a PowerPoint on and drone on and on and on about everything behind it. But I only use the PowerPoint feature when I absolutely necessarily need to. I think of technology in a different way and in a scientific instrumentation way. I think tools are instruments and I think they are technology that we can be working with. So technology and the way that I'm using glassware and I'm using my Bunsen burners and I'm using my chemicals and I'm teaching these students. OK. Well, when you put these two things together, this is the product. And how can we determine what we're making from this? So technology kind of not on that nice 21st century way that we all like to think about it, but technology in a way that we're still using her hands and we're still using our knowledge to move forward and learn the technology.

Laura Knoy:
Well, a Bunsen burner is technology like that today. Well, a couple just last questions for you, and I'll start with you, Meg. We talked about people entering the profession, you know, mid career and the benefits and the skills and so forth. What would you say the benefits are? On the other side, doing it the way you did it, you know, going to Keene State College and getting that education degree?

Meg Cleary:
Sure. Because I was such a very, very small degree. I was the only one who graduated with chemistry and secondary education during my career there. There was a few ahead of me and a few behind me, but only one that year. I worked really closely with a mentor, Sally Jean, for four years straight. And so the ability for us to bond really well was really important. She knew me really well. She knew my schedule really well. She helped me succeed. And the most important thing that she did was put me into placements, a different placement every single time to kind of give me a basic feel of the Monadnock area, which I think kind of translates throughout New Hampshire itself. But at each one of those destinations that each one of those schools, I had the ability to Rourke with other teachers. And the most important one was the ability to fail for me, ability for me to get up in front of the class and be like, hey, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm going to try really hard and I'm going to present it the best way possible. But it may not go. And I have failed so many times in front of the students. I'm going to continue to fail. But that that safe spot is saying you can fail. It's important to fail. I'm going to pick you up and we're going to show you the next step. And I think that was crucial for Keene State to provide for me.

Laura Knoy:
Well, in relating to what you said, Darrell, I'd like to ask you how well supported do you, as the head of the Education Department at Keene State College feel? How much support do you feel by the broader Keene community? You've got to get your teachers into those schools the minute knock area and you want to get them in early and often.

Darrell Hucks:
Right. We do. I feel we are very supported by the community. In fact, we have a project that we're working on that is driven that was driven by a book club that we did with some community members here in Keene. And it was around the book, kiddo, which is a book about a graphic novel that my freshman course class read. And it's about a dealing child who's growing up in Worcester, the author and dealing with addiction in the family and dysfunction. And so the students we read it. We read it with with. So it's an intergenerational book club. And it was just inspiring. So now from that Rourke, we are now working on a project that's going to go out to the broader community and came. It's called Seeing Our Community. I'll tell you about it.

Laura Knoy:
Right.

Darrell Hucks:
Can I say one more thing about the professional development piece? Because I think there's there's something that we often don't discuss. And I love administrators a lot. Principals and the Rourke that they do. But sometimes they they are not instructional leaders. And I feel like principals need to be instructional leaders. And so that's where things get tricky about them making decisions about curriculum programs that are coming into the classroom. And it's one person should not be making the decision about an entire school that should be done collectively.

Laura Knoy:
Lastly, to you, Susan, we've talked a lot about the challenges and some of the excitement around getting into the teaching profession. If you met someone who you thought this is going to make a really good teacher. What would you say to them about your your satisfaction, 30 years in the classroom?

Susan Rourke:
Well, it's kind of funny because I think five members of my 21 person department are actually former students of mine who I have brought into the profession into the fold. And teacher retention is really important. So I do talk about this a lot. And when I talk about is despite the challenges, the challenges of funding and the challenges of student behavior and and, you know, all of the the difficulties that students bring to the classroom, there is something very wonderful. For instance, in my case of sitting in a classroom of like minded people and talking about books, it's a wonderful thing. And then to be able to feed off the energy. If teenagers every day and they constantly make me laugh and I learn from them, so there is something very wonderful about the classroom experience, it energizes and it's very rewarding and fulfilling.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and good luck in the new school year to all three of you, actually. Yeah. I mean, thank you very much for being here. This is The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.

The views expressed in this program are those of the individuals and not those of NHPR, its board of trustees or its underwriters. Hey, if you'd like what you heard. Spread the word. Please give us a review on iTunes to help other listeners find us. And thanks.