For years, in the Baltimore City School System, there had been a growing consensus that the pool of highly qualified, well-educated teachers was limited by the requirement that teachers new in the system hold an undergraduate degree in “Education.” Although serving the best interests of the system in many ways, the requirement did have an unexpected negative consequence: the barring from the school system’s faculty of an important group of mature, dedicated individuals.
Enter, four years ago and with support from The Abell Foundation, the Resident Teacher’s Program.
Teachers Not Trained to Teach
Baltimore City is looking for men and women who want to teach.
If you have never been trained to teach, but demonstrate
intelligence, ability, and a relentless commitment to providing a
future for our children…
Responding to Help Wanted ads such as this one, and to the power of persuasion by word-of-mouth, hundreds of men and women-young and not-so-young, black and white — sought the opportunity and the challenge to teach in an urban school system without having a traditional degree in Education.
The program was implemented. Training for candidates included (and includes) classroom observation, pre-service institutes, in-school mentors to provide experienced oversight, weekly seminars, and active support through field supervision. Of this demanding training and preparation to become a Resident Teacher, the 1990 Baltimore City Teacher of the Year Cranston Dize, who teaches in the program, commented, “You have to be tough, willing to work very hard, and determined to care about every child in the classroom.”
The fundamental assumption of the Resident Teacher Program is that the ability to teach grows in people while they work at teaching in the best of all environments: schools. It is geared specifically to individuals who may be changing careers and who do not have a lot of flexibility with their time before they begin teaching.
Starting this year there will be a new program for career changers wishing to become special education teachers. The pre-service training for the Resident Teacher Program entails (1) an integrated methods course at a local college in early summer and (2) a two-week training institute in August. Once the school year be gins, teacher growth is shaped by group interactions with peers and experienced BCPS teachers, inquiry into teaching and learning, and personalized
What have been the results of the Resident Teacher Program? In terms of raw numbers , the Baltimore City School System has been able to add over 200 dedicated teachers to its faculty. In 1992, 39 resident teachers were added; in 1993, 99; 1994 ,42; and in 1995, 53.
How does the effort help in improving the education of Baltimore City’s Public Schools — day to day, classroom by classroom, student by student?
The mission of the program, according to Helen Atkinson, staff specialist with the program, is twofold. First, to expand the numbers of qualified teachers available to the system, and, second, to provide within those additional numbers the mature (the average age is 35) male teachers (and 50 percent of those hired are males), for whom there is a special need in Baltimore City. On both accounts, Ms. Atkinson says, the program is working. “The lesson learned is that the chief beneficiaries of the program, are, in the end, the students. Their education experience is infinitely enriched by the maturity and varied backgrounds that the Resident Teacher Program brings to the classroom through these most unusual individuals.”