The Problem with Teacher Education Degrees

Walk into every classroom and you’ll meet students with a diverse range of learning needs. In fact, the statistics tell us that as many as 20% of children are struggling; struggling to keep up, to conform, to regulate their behaviour or to pass the academic benchmarks. It makes sense then that a four year degree would adequately prepare new teachers for this scenario, doesn’t it? Wrong!

In the thirty two subjects that made up my Early Childhood Education Degree, how many do you suppose were dedicated to learning about children who fall outside of the ‘normal’ range? The answer is one. That’s right, just one.

It’s no surprise then that as a graduate teacher I felt ill-prepared to meet the divergent needs of the students in my class. My individual solution was to return to university part-time to study in the field of Special Education. But not everyone wants to dedicate the time and expense doing so and nor should they have to.

I hear from parents of both public and private schools who are unhappy with how well their setting caters to children who need additional support or extension, who require classroom modifications or who just need more opportunities to move. They liken it to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I wholeheartedly agree, and yet I’ve also seen the other perspective. Teachers overwhelmed like I was, who want to help every student thrive but who are lacking the knowledge base to do so.

It’s surprising for non-teachers to discover that our degree focused on neurotypical students. More than that, it was geared towards mythical children; eager to learn, with exceptional social skills and fine motor control. When education degrees do not match the reality of today’s classrooms, we all wear the consequences, students, parents and teachers alike.

As a parent, you understand your child’s developmental idiosyncrasies better than anyone. You will always be her best advocate. Forgive her teacher for not knowing everything, and collaborate towards her progress and wellbeing.

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