PREPARING a teacher for the rigors of the classroom is like teaching someone to swim.
You can give a college graduate seeking to become a teacher a few summer weeks of training, then toss the initiate off the diving board and hope for the best. The model, described several times recently in these pages, is Teach for America, a national program designed to fill critical teacher shortages in urban and rural schools.
Or you can start the formal training while the would-be teacher is a university junior. The first year, the student learns how to tread water. The second year, he or she becomes an intern teacher, graduates and goes to work in the honorable profession.
This academic model, described in an education supplement in today's Sun, is the "professional development school" operated by Baltimore County public schools and Towson State University, among other school-college partnerships in the metropolitan area.
Between these approaches is the internship program at Park School, an independent school in Brooklandville. Here, recent college graduates work full time. They are paid $17,500 yearly plus benefits to work with mentor teachers.
There is no guarantee of a teaching job after the internship and the interns can earn academic credits applicable to a master's degree in education. But the Park program is a pure internship in the sense that it exposes young people to what Bonnie Rosenblatt, assistant lower school principal who oversees the four interns at Park, called "the stresses and joys of managing and teaching."
It is no lark. "These aren't assistants who wash your dirty paint pots and correct your homework," said Rosenblatt. "They have to keep journals, they have to read books about child development, classroom management, reading and math. By the end of the year they should be beginning to realize what the needs of the children are -- what it means to be a second-grader."
The interns do some solo teaching, but not before extensive preparation. They must choose two students from their classes and monitor their development closely over the school term.
"We get to know those students intimately," said Fitz Hardcastle, 27, a Johns Hopkins University graduate. "It's extremely demanding and extremely personal. When the day's over, I sometimes have to go home and just zone out."
The four 1996-1997 interns said working at Park has allowed them to learn about education in small classes of 15 with generally well-behaved students and experienced teacher mentors.
On the other hand, said June Bennett Williams, 24, a Duke University graduate interning with first-grade teacher Susan Benedict, Park's progressive philosophy "requires us to be constantly flexible and adaptable. So many things are going on at the same time that you forget that every one of them has a purpose. It's a wonderful experience."
Louise Mehta, assistant head of Park, said the internship program has a "self-serving motive." "Not only do we want to introduce high-caliber people to teaching; we also want to introduce minority candidates to independent school teaching," she said. Williams and Torica Webb, 22, are African-Americans, chosen in a highly competitive search, Mehta said. Hardcastle is a "minority," too, as he considers a career in a field historically dominated by women.
Only the rabbit had a worse weekend
Here in its entirety (and unedited) is a note submitted last week to an adjunct professor at Catonsville Community College: "Dear Ms. XXXX,
"I am sorry I was not able to turn in my argument paper with my thesis and outline. I was not able to finish it because I had a very rough weekend. I have been working on it over the Thanksgiving break but, on Saturday I was in an accident. My car slid in the
rain and I ran into a brick wall. I really thought I was going to die. I tried to work on my paper on Saturday, but all I could think about was the accident. I planned on finishing it on Sunday, but I went downstairs to feed my animals (I have had little rodents like rabbits and guinea pigs as pets since I was little) and I found my rabbit laying dead -- my dog killed it. Not to mention the fact that my rabbit's head is missing! So my Sunday was shot too. I felt sick all day and I really liked that rabbit. I don't know if this is any excuse or not but I figured I'd let you know what happened.
Professor finds no allure in Florida's 'Sweatshop U'
Here in its entirety is a statement from James Spence, professor of economics at the University of South Florida branch in Fort Myers, explaining why he didn't seek a job at Florida Gulf Coast University, now under construction in Fort Myers (quoted in Crosstalk, a publication of the California Higher Education Policy Center):
"I didn't want any part of the new university. They want the faculty to teach three or four courses each semester, work closely with students, participate in 'distance learning' and help plan the curriculum. That sounds like 'Sweatshop U' to me."
Pub Date: 12/08/96