Education Schools Need More On-the-Job Training

Or so teaching-residency advocates say

Principal Philip Weinberg of the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn is inclined to agree with Hess. But Weinberg sees the New Visions–Hunter residency as an exception. Three of its residents work with mentor teachers in his school, and one graduate teaches English there.

“I don’t think ed schools can prepare teachers,” Weinberg says. “Part of what happens in any kind of apprenticeship is that there’s a divorce between the academic and experiential learning. What’s intelligent about the [New Visions–Hunter residency] is that these two elements are intimately tied together.”

Georganne Karvunis, a 15-year veteran teacher and mentor for New Visions–Hunter, knows firsthand how crucial it is for new teachers to get expert guidance. Her student teaching experience through DePaul University was “useless,” she says: “My mentor was free with letting me do what I wanted, but she didn’t guide me at all. I did my lesson plans and I thought they were fun, but I don’t actually think they met any particular goals. I thought it was great that my mentor let me be, but when I had my own class the following year, I struggled with lesson planning.”

Illustration by Rachel Harris


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At the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn, New Visions–Hunter resident Matthew Adelizzi leads Karvunis’s 10th-grade Honors English class, but she remains by his side every step of the way. From time to time, she whispers reminders in his ear: “Check to see which students are getting it.” “Speed up the lesson.” “Slow it down.” Other times she refines his directions to the class. If Adelizzi directs a question to students about the book they are reading, Karvunis may step in and tell the students to take 30 seconds to talk it over with each other first.

“Learning to teach is like learning to drive,” says Adelizzi. “You have to think about, OK, this is my turn signal and there are 17 cars coming at me from behind and my mother is sitting next to me going, ‘Brake! Brake!’ There are just so many things going on in your head. Georganne is there to help me focus and say, ‘OK, here’s what’s most important.’ ”

Of course, not every mentor and resident are going to be successful. Harford says some mentors from last year’s program were not asked to return because, ultimately, they did not improve their mentees’ effectiveness in the classroom as measured by student course work and test scores. At the same time, out of 20 residents in the first New Visions–Hunter class, two failed to meet expectations and did not complete the program. This is in sharp contrast to traditional education programs, which, according to Hess and other critics, screen almost nobody along the way.

“If someone can’t demonstrate by the end of the year that they’re moving student achievement, we’re not going to graduate them,” says Harford. “They’re not ready to be a teacher in New York City schools. We are not afraid to make these determinations.”

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