Cover story in the Economist. Their shtick is teacher training this week. We can solve all our education problems with radically more effective teacher training, so says the Economist. Good teachers are not born, they are trained. No discussion of phonics vs whole word method of teaching reading. No discussion of Common Core. No numbers anywhere.
Me, I'm not so sure. To teach public school in the US, you have to suffer thru the education major in college. Four years of meaningless blather. Those who survive and go on to teach, either were highly motivated, or totally dull, to put up with the total boredom of the ed major.
I went thru nine years of public school, three years of a very good prep school and four years of a good college. In this sixteen year educational odyssey I encountered quite a few teachers, most decent, some extra ordinary, and some worthless. Then I went into the Air Force, and took a few classes from the Field Training Detachment (FTD in USAF speak). The instructors in FTD were uniformly excellent, as good as any teacher I'd ever had. These instructors were just ordinary enlisted men, pulled right off the flight line, no college, on their second hitch in the Air Force. And they were good. Their students were all teenage guys, of prime trouble causing age, but they never had any trouble. And the students learned the stuff. They paid attention, did the homework, passed the tests.
What made the FTD instructors so good? First of all, they knew their subject matter, backwards and forwards, standing on their heads and underwater. Then the subject matter was interesting, jet engines, machine shop work, hydraulics, aircraft instruments, guided missiles, radar, autopilot, sheet metal work, avionics and more. For young guys with a day job doing aircraft maintenance, all this stuff was interesting. It really helps the instructor to be teaching something his students care about.
And the instructors were motivated. They knew that the teenagers they were instructing were the future of the Air Force, and they were all career Air Force men, who deeply cared about the Air Force. They gave their best, and it worked.
Bottom line, I don't think good teachers are born or trained. Good teaching happens when the teacher knows his subject thoroughly, and cares about his students. And it really helps to teach subjects that the students care about. .