First Monday After Labor Day (1943)

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Teacher educator Francis Martin, writing in Educational Leadership, compares the experience of a new teacher entering the classroom after graduation to Martin’s shock at buying her first car. Somehow, Martin had never driven before the purchase, but she figured that her experience watching others drive and her understanding of how brakes and other auto components worked was enough. Sure enough, her fender, a garage, and a poor maple tree soon felt the brunt of her inexperience.

Read the article: First Monday After Labor Day (PDF)

The anecdote is a little dubious—did Martin plan to drive the car home without a license?—but the metaphor is clear: no matter how much you’ve studied teaching, much learning cannot happen until you’re working in a classroom.

New teachers shouldn’t be expected to go out on the road without a proper test drive of their skills and knowledge. “Our graduates leave us full of enthusiasm for teaching. They have notebooks full of outlines, lists of materials, and firm convictions on methods,” says Martin. “But, what they need is the ‘feel of the clutch’ which comes with total experience,” she writes in the October 1943 issue.

Martin says a new teacher cannot be expected to take command of a classroom on the “First Monday After Labor Day” (PDF). Instead, new teachers should be allowed at least half a year to work as apprentices where they will gain an understanding of the daily responsibilities of being a teacher. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s praise for reform efforts of teacher education to a model “fully grounded in clinical practice” is something of an echo of this sentiment, nearly 70 years on.

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