However, the reason I am blogging at this moment is because I am not on a Greyhound bus traveling back to Home City. Oh no. And why's that? Because the city bus that was supposed to arrive at campus for 1:45, getting downtown at 2:15, in plenty of time for my 2:45 Greyhound, did not arrive on campus till 2:00. The driver then proceeded to have a smoke for twelve minutes. Then we had a lovely little 10-minute stop by the side of the road, halfway into the journey, while the driver finished his coffee and we waited for a change of drivers. So I missed my bus. I mean, I love it here and all, and it's nice that I'm in this friendly cafe with wireless Internet. But I'm hot and lugging bags, and I'm supposed to be going home! And every bus I have gone on this week has been late. Grr -too much!!
Anyway, also - since I'm whining - why not whine about education students? Actually, this isn't about the students, per se, as much as about the culture of education faculties and programs, when they are considered simply "teacher training". They make me crazy! I thought of this because I was surrounded, on my very late city bus, by tiny little women who look about sixteen, and act like it too - talking all excitedly and giggling about their first days of their education degree this week. What? These people are going to be teaching children in one year?
I developed a bit of an allergy to this whole culture last year, when my office at that university was surrounded by three Education classrooms, where the students sat in little groups of four at low tables, and all I could hear, all day long - even with my door closed - was:
--Education professor: "Good morning, Section 7". Chorus of adults, for chrissake, replying to the teacher in singsong unity: "Good morning, Mrs. X"
--Endless rounds of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and its ilk
--The following, sadly representative exchange between education professor and education student (which I have committed to aggravated memory): Professor: "Let's talk about the book about clay. Julie?" Julie: "It was just about clay, and I liked it." Professor: "Good."
I mean, come on! This is how we prepare people - who are so infantilized by the culture that they don't even seem like adults - to do one of the most important jobs in society? I find it infuriating. And it wasn't even just me being curmudgeonly - I overheard several conversations outside my office, between bitterly disappointed and sometimes angry education students, complaining that they weren't learning anything at all. It was just busywork. I have several friends who are second-career teachers - who have done their teaching degrees in the last few years - who tell me outrageous stories about the dumbed-down environment.
And we wonder about the skills - or lack thereof - of the undergraduate students we teach in BA programs? The inability to think critically, to interrogate things, to sit comfortably with questions instead of pat answers? It really seems to me that it's a vicious cycle...that they aren't learning these skills because the people who are teaching them often haven't been taught that that's their job, as educators.
This isn't to say that there aren't brilliant, critical thinkers in education faculties, and that some of those faculties aren't innovative...I know of a couple like that in Canada, where grad students and faculty are doing really interesting work. But this challenging work doesn't seem to translate at the "teacher training" level, for the most part - and those B.Ed programs largely remain nine-month-long factories, indoctrinating students in provincial policy, and not thinking.
In the part of Canada where I live, at least, this comes down in part to political shifts, which have seen the provincial government embrace a really retrograde approach to curriculum.
So yeah - as sweet as education students almost invariably are, they remind me of something more sinister.