The Faculty of Education is one of the only schools on campus aimed at providing students with job-specific training and in-field experience. Despite the faculty’s focus on practical teaching, however, its classes are failing our future teachers.
Education students take courses in multiculturalism, inclusivity, and evaluation (test making). These classes only outline problems – they don’t provide solutions. Telling future educators that they will have to deal with racism, ableism, and homophobia in their classrooms is all well and good, but professors fail to provide solutions for these problems.
Our professors are highly educated, many of them in the process of conducting studies and writing books. They are intelligent and accomplished in their fields. It’s sometimes not easy to catch the biggest problem with the faculty – professors and teachers simply do not have the same profession. If the two jobs were the same, then education profs would be able to interact with us as fellow teachers. Too often, though, they are fundamentally removed from the real world of teaching. Many education professors have not taught in an actual classroom in years. No amount of academic study can replace time in the classroom, planning real lessons, and teaching children. After now getting a taste of teaching through my first of four field experiences, it is easy to see that we are not being taught the right things.
We, as future teachers, are graduating blind. Students aren’t seeing the whole picture, which is especially detrimental to first-time teachers. If you have the luck (or misfortune) of being placed in mainly private or well-kept schools during your field experience, you’re in for a drastic shock when it comes time to teach in an urban public school.
The schools found in places like Parc Ex and the South Shore have different populations than the ones often found in richer neighbourhoods like Westmount. Having higher amounts of immigrant children in a school, or those from lower income families, completely changes the school’s dynamic. Though never a rule, kids who grow up in wealthier neighbourhoods, who often have the advantage of parents who can afford to be involed in their childrens’ schooling, are likely to be easier to manage in the classroom. chools in wealthier areas typically have better behaved children with more stable backgrounds. A teacher who is used to dealing with this type of school and is then hired to a school in a “rougher” area can face a pedagogical culture shock. Even within a typical public school, the differences between teaching remedial and gifted classes are significant.
After seeing the public school system from the other side of the desk, it is easy to notice the drastic differences between children. One of the first things I was told after arriving at my placement was that every child has a story, and that I needed to learn them and know them.
Never was this detailed in my first-year education classes, which were supposed to prepare me for my field experience. It was a shock. The other major shock I received had to do with the educational policy we have been learning at McGill all along, referred to as the “reform.”
The reform is an evolutionary step of the Quebec Ministry of Education, Leisure, and Sports (MELS), a new wave of teaching practices that aim to create student-centred learning environments.
Teachers are now asked to commit 32 hours a week to the school, as opposed to the previous 27. These hours are in addition to the large amounts spent out of the classroom, preparing lessons and marking tests.
Classes are also now being created as multi-levelled, including students of a wide array of capabilities. In the past, schools consisted of more streamed classes, separating students by ability. The multi-level inclusive classrooms described by the reform add more obstacles in the paths of already overworked teachers. Having less variety in academic capabilities in the classroom allows teachers to specialize their plans to fit the students. The reform’s demand of ultimate inclusivity restricts the ability of teachers to specialize their programs to fit students, as they now must cover a wider range of abilities with the same resources.
To someone like myself, who is from outside the province, the practices set by the reform seem logical and beneficial to the education of future generations.
However, working teachers, even those who have only been teaching for five to 10 years, are upset. The reform requires a change to the majority of current teaching practices, something not easy for the older generations.
Although we were warned about the reform, we aren’t warned about the resistance present in many staff rooms. How could we have been, when many of our professors haven’t been in a classroom in over 10 years?
McGill needs to institute a policy of teaching us more about what and whom we will be teaching. Academic learning is useful as a base, but we need teachers who know what we are dealing with and can provide the support we need in both the classrooms we learn in and the classrooms where we teach.