The apprenticeship of observation and becoming a teacher

Teaching speech bubbleI’m having an ah-ha as I read my students’ reflections–based on memory and video–on their minilessons (5-8 minutes, taught to their classmates). In watching the videos, so many of them notice their “ums” and long pauses when they’re hunting for words.  To a person, they offer the solution of time and practice. And while both of those ideas are true, they aren’t true in the way my students think they are. They’re imagining practicing these minilessons in front of a mirror like they would a speech or class presentation. But teaching isn’t a series of presentations.

This unconscious assumption about teaching-as-presenting comes from the “apprenticeship of observation” (Lortie, 2002/1975).  Most often, this theory is used to explain why teachers teach the way they were taught, as opposed to the way they learn in their preparation program.  But it’s applicable here as well.  My preservice teachers (and all preservice teachers) spend so much time watching teachers–not seeing teachers plan, not seeing teachers in professional development sessions, not seeing all the discarded ideas teachers have.  For them, then, the act of teaching is the performance. (An aside: This apprenticeship is also why everyone thinks they know everything about teaching, but let’s not go down that particular road today.)

Given the ongoing discussion of how other countries do differently/better than the US in educating children, I also suspect that for many teachers in the US, the teaching is performance because there isn’t time for anything else.

Time spent in front of children (from HuffPo)

Time spent in front of children (from HuffPo)

So part of my work with them over the next year is to get them to zoom out from the standing-in-front-of-the-room-talking-at-students teaching to conceptualizing the learning moments they will create for their students, and how those learning moments fit into larger arcs of learning and growth. Just like I’m trying to model for them. Poking and prodding, moving them along the road to thinking like a teacher, planning like a teacher, and teaching like a teacher. Teaching isn’t a series of presentations.

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