In the Classroom Shark Pool

Jul 9, 2009

Source: The Jerusalem Post


Today almost half of the new teachers entering the Israeli education system don't remain even the two or three years that theory says is necessary to learn how to cope with the atmosphere in Israeli classrooms. The children pay the price of this pedagogical learning curve as inexperienced, frustrated, alienated and often incompetent teachers follow inexperienced, frustrated, alienated and often incompetent teachers.


How can ordinary teachers, without exceptional native ability, learn to educate your children? At least part of the answer will come from changing the almost universal 'Sink or Swim' model.


This is the practice, introduced at the dawn of compulsory education, in which a novice teacher completes his (or mostly) her training and is thrown directly into a classroom shark pool with little or no supervision.


HERE IS A WIN-WIN, paradigm-breaking solution. Teachers should start as teaching assistants for the first three years, gradually taking individual classes first with and later without supervision. Very few teachers would fail to benefit from a competent teaching assistant in their classroom, and when the novice graduates to a class of their own they would be a known quantity.


Teachers enter a new classroom with the enormous disadvantage of knowing nothing of their charges' backgrounds, personalities, strengths, weaknesses or even their names. Although some Israeli schools already have a mentoring program in place, the hands-on experience of working with an experienced teacher and seeing how she manages in real time is far better than discussing a problem later. In addition, apprentice training beats mentoring in that the older teacher gains a real benefit from the presence of the assistant.

Updated: Jul. 13, 2009