Education & School · Interdisciplinary

Roxanna Elden and the Training Gap: On the Myth of the Super Teacher

In this presentation, titled “The Myth of the Super Teacher”, educator Roxanna Elden addresses the core of a major problem in the field of education: the training gap.  She reminds us that, “half of all teacher leave by their fifth year, and half of all inner-city teachers leave by their third year.”  The high turnover trends result from, in part, improper training and unrealistic expectations teachers receive.  She shares her stories of struggle and failure – and she is not alone.

In general, High employment turn-over rate, like that seen in new teachers is a sign that something is wrong in the system, namely: a gap between what new recruits  are prepared for before the first day on the job, and what they get when they arrive at school. Elden posits, “The great teachers of the future know they are not great yet and many of them won’t stick around long enough to become great.”

Roxanna Elden
Roxanna Elden

Such disparities exist in any field.  A software engineer landing a big break at corporation may find that the glamour of the job is not what she expects and she burns out.  That new sales associate is going to quit in 6 months because the actual tasks of the position turn out to be a poor fit for his natural talents – he has decided to go into teaching instead.  These stories happen all the time.  The question is: what can be done to combat this trend?

Some fields, like medecine for example, attempt to deal with this by requiring much higher professional qualifications, and an arduous process of pre-employment training at the graduate level. And the only turn-over rate that medecine is feeling is at the retirement age.

Education is not like this (but close).   One can enter the the teaching profession any number of ways: undergraduate degree, Teacher for America-like programs, master’s degree with first-time licensure, online or in-person and more (just ask Arthur Levine).  We get out of this system of training exactly what we should expect: very disparate outcomes in terms of real preparation to succeed and sustain in teaching.

See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers
See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers

In her book, See Me After Class: Advice For Teachers by Teachers, Roxanna Elden aims to give honest, practical advice and humor – what she sees as a significant missing element to the training of educators.  Could it be that this most-human and informal information is what teachers are looking for?  It’s certainly ripe with humor, like her description of how teachers should view their administration: “”Your administration is like a bra: if it provides the support you need, you look better and feel better. If it fits poorly, it gets in your way and can even become painful.”

We can only hope that Elden’s dose of humanity is what the doctor ordered.

What honest, practical and humorous advice would you give someone entering your field?  Have you read Roxanna Elden’s book “See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers”?  What advice from the book did you find most useful? 

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3 thoughts on “Roxanna Elden and the Training Gap: On the Myth of the Super Teacher

  1. As someone who has been teaching in a public school for two years and is currently in a teacher training program (Masters of Education with first time licensure), I agree that there is a disparity between what we are prepared for and what we experience. Student teaching can be an eye-opening experience for some, but it’s so hard to truly know what teaching is like until you are in your own classroom. I’m not sure how this can be remedied. Although more schooling and more experience in classrooms would help, it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to go into as much debt as doctors often do for their schooling for the reward of a public school teacher’s income. This is a complex issue that goes beyond teacher training programs. I look forward to reading this book!

  2. Hey Maiable,
    Good point: can we ever really prepare ourselves for any major, new experience, let alone one requiring so much energy, creativity and dedication over a long period of time? And no, we certainly can’t expect teachers to invest as much as those going into medecine or law so long as the rewards do not compare (arguably).

    What advice would you give someone preparing to go into your field?

    What was one thing you would not change about your student teaching experience?

    Who knows what the future of pre-service teacher training will look like. I look forward to finding out.

    John

  3. Good questions! Being a relatively new teacher, I’m usually on the receiving end of advice. It’s hard to know what teaching really is until you have your own classroom, but I have noticed that many pre-service teachers (especially those going for secondary or K-12 licenses) talk a lot more about how excited they are about their content area than how excited they are to TEACH. Of course, it’s important to like and know your content, but I believe that the people who enter the field without teaching as their main focus are the ones who are dissatisfied, unengaged and unengaging, and are more likely to leave the teaching profession, no matter how much they love the topic that they teach. I would advise those considering teaching to really consider what it is that is attracting them to this field and to make sure it is the teaching.

    As for student teaching, I haven’t done mine yet! I entered teaching in an unusual way, having my own classroom for a year and a half before even starting my formal teaching training. When I started in my position, I was extremely aware of my lack of training, which made me very open to looking help wherever I could get it. I don’t think I would have been so willing to seek advice from other teachers like that if I had already been through all of the training, thinking that I knew what I was doing!

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