Empowering Preservice Teachers through Tutoring Chronically Ill Cancer Patients

By Ortlieb, Evan | Education, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Empowering Preservice Teachers through Tutoring Chronically Ill Cancer Patients


Ortlieb, Evan, Education


Introduction

The start of another semester had in some respects become uneventful. As a collegiate professor, I had become somewhat complacent in doing things as normal: introducing myself, speaking about what the course would entail, and asking students to describe what they would like to gain from taking this class. This particular course was centrally aimed at giving students field experiences in the junior year of their undergraduate education to prepare them for student teaching. After a brief course description, students began voicing their growing concerns and dissatisfaction with many aspects of their previous preservice teacher courses. "All we do is observe ... we rarely get to teach, and when we do, it is for brief instances at a time" stated one apprehensive individual. But what was I to do? I could not control what they had already experienced in other professors' courses. Designing programs that prepare prospective teachers to learn from their teaching encounters beginning when they first enter the program is an alternative approach to teaching content before allowing for pedagogical practice (Schaefer, 1967; Hawkins, 1973; Nemser, 1983). Nevertheless, urgent action was needed since it was my duty to provide these preservice educators with meaningful field experiences, not tedious assignments and unfulfilled opportunities in the elementary classroom as they had already encountered.

In listening to my students' concerns, I heard many different vantage points about how their limited classroom opportunities seemed meaningless, where they sat watching when they were supposed to be giving whole-class instruction as the classroom teacher seemed to have authoritarian control of the class. Others said they conducted excessive observational studies while failing to have realistic elementary teaching practice. A few of the students even expressed their swaying desires to enter into the teaching career. This particular announcement was not startling, but its reasoning struck several nerves. Although these few did want to teach, work with children, and assist in their development, they were so displeased with their preservice teaching opportunities that they questioned whether their experiences would prepare them suitably for the immense responsibility that goes along with the profession.

What was going on? These students were blatantly expressing their disgust with not having adequate preparation (e.g., teaching experiences with students). Initially, I felt criticized as being one who implemented the preservice teacher program design. How could these undergraduates know more about their needs than those who designed the existing course frameworks? Soon however, it dawned on me that no one would know better than the students themselves. They experience each course, take those opportunities, and are supposed to develop throughout their teacher education program. Smith & Lev-Ari (2005) found that preservice teachers most-heavily weigh practicums in terms of importance out of all aspects of teacher education; unfortunately, the current design was not allowing my students to fulfill this necessity.

Although I could not change the entire program, I could change the logistics of my particular course to better situate it towards their eminent needs. The pursuit of change commenced with designing a noteworthy semester filled with field experiences that would prove more meaningful to both the collegiate students and those elementary/middle school learners with which they came in contact. After all, what is the purpose of developing future teachers if their needs are not taken into consideration when formulating one's own curriculum?

No longer would complacency be an option; I could not accept that the program offered limited realistic opportunities to my students to leave lasting impressions on the lives of youth. Thus, it was back to the drawing board to determine what specific needs were not met by the current preservice teacher program. …

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