Saturday, July 18, 2009

How to choose the right teacher preparation program

Not as advertised.

Ok, so the title is a little misleading, since I do not claim to know how to make the right choice for other people. I barely know how to make the right choice for myself - actually, of late, I'm kind of thinking I didn't make the right choice in terms of teacher preparation programs. But then, this area is a learning experience in and of itself.

The CSU and UC system has some sort of college of education at nearly all of their campuses. UOP, a local private college in my town, is one of the few 4-year universities (that I know of, in California) that has a teaching credential integrated into their education major. National University, I hear, has a ten month program that churns out credentialed teachers.

Of these choices, if I were able to do the whole thing again, I would do an integrated credential with an education major. The down side is that I wouldn't have had as much time to study math. And I owe a lot of learning to math, so maybe I wouldn't after all. It's just in retrospect, knowing the direction I want to go, it would have saved a lot of time and money. However, I didn't actually know the direction I wanted to go when I was just a little 17-year-old, so I guess this regret is a moot point. Plus, I actually DID want to study math.

CSUS offers several cohorts that in effect do the same thing: you graduate with a post-bac degree which includes your CA teaching credential. It can be done in two-, 3-, and 4- semester programs. I'm currently in the 3-semester program called Urban Teacher Education Center. Of course, my three semesters is turning out to be four, but that's a whole different story.

Or maybe not. A teacher friend entered her program later than me, and came out with a credential before me. She's found a job now, and everything, which is a good and happy thing. She went through a situation a little like mine, where she didn't feel like she was learning anything from her CT. She, being smarter than me, was more forceful about getting a placement change.

She did tell me one thing: that it is MY education and career, and I'm spending MY money on it. And if I don't feel like I'm getting what it's worth, then I'll have something to say about it.

In that sense, I was spoiled at UCD, where everything is done for you. At least for undergrads. I had an awesome academic counselor (another thing I wish I had done more: see the academic counselor more often!), the career center was very helpful, all the forms were easy to find online and in person at the offices, and when it came time to pay up, the school made sure it was all straightforward and above board. None of this "pay by the fees deadline or else you get dropped, and by the way we constantly change the fee deadlines so that even our financial services people don't know when you have to pay up!"

Come to think of it, I came across these administrative snaffus at HKU too, where departments didn't communicate with each other and you had to go from office to office telling the same people the same information just to make sure you are enrolled in the right class. Sure, these things are my responsibility. Bu that doesn't mean you need to make it so very not customer friendly. And after all, students are the customers of universities.

UTEC won the "Quality Education Partnership Award for Distinguished Service to Children and the Preparation of Teachers" which was given by the California Council on Teacher Education (CCTC) last year. Apparently, this is a pretty prestigious award. I can put this in my cover letters when applying to jobs. Prestige is nice, but to be honest, I don't know what to make of it, or how to put being a part of an award-winning teacher preparation program to good use. Other than do what I do, like I do now. Maybe that's enough. Although often, it doesn't seem so. I sometimes wonder if Harvard graduates think they are living up to their ivy league education as well as they should. Ultimately though, to each his or her own, and the choices I make must first and foremost satisfy myself before bringing any laudable news for my alma mater, or any one else for that matter.

Wow, I'm writing more about this than I thought I would. All I can say is beware and be careful when choosing a credential program. And when you get into a program, still keep up with university policies, because apparently they can change like one of those girls from The Hills changes their mind about each other.

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