11/08/2010 06:36 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pre-Service Teachers Are Voiceless

My initiation into the teaching profession began at a time of significant change. As a young student teacher in the early 2000s, I noticed even then the vexations of many teachers over standardized testing. All of the sudden, no children were to be left behind and I often wondered aloud if we actually did so previously. I recall an eerie quiet one sunny September day on the elementary school's playground. The steady stream of jetliners following the Potomac River into National Airport stopped. Within the hour, parents began picking up their children. In a strained effort not to startle the kids, we remarked in feigned confusion that everyone must have a dental appointment today. We knew there would be plenty of time for conversations tomorrow. Yet, few actually wanted to have a discussion; everyone just wanted to move on with the day's business.

I view these situations in hindsight, marveling at how a teacher's time and resolve are challenged by events outside their control. Now that I am a new professor of elementary education, my unofficial métier is to prepare young pre-service teachers for the unanticipated events that will test their patience. I often admit that I have neither seen it all nor am always going to have the right answer when it comes to the eccentricities of classroom management, for instance. There are likely no correct answers: the solution being so thoroughly embedded in the context of a particular classroom that outsiders have trouble seeing it. I try to model my own will to problem‐solve, taking each case as it comes, add a dose of trial‐and‐error, and see what emerges. These are the action‐oriented habits we try to encourage in new teachers. The undergraduates with whom I work are also entering the profession amidst significant changes, the implications of which will not be visible until they have their own classrooms. Many states race to the top, adjusting curricula to match new priorities. Common core standards are being released and the country is consumed by college and career readiness.

As these reforms slowly become reality, I wanted to air the voices of those who are even further removed from the conversation on education: snapshots in time of young people who very recently entered the teaching profession. When this essay finally reaches a wider audience, did the new reforms address their concerns? I asked pre‐service students to volunteer their thoughts. What follows are several of their brief testimonials, which speak to the diverse perspectives of new teachers.

On what is curriculum based? Education should be based on many things: engagement, experience, experimentation, critical thinking, and interaction, just to name a few. Why does it seem that students' education is based solely on content? What can a student really learn strictly from information and content everyday? Are they thinking critically, or just memorizing facts? As a new teacher, I wonder what the future holds for children.

Becoming a teacher has been a difficult yet wonderful experience. There is so much work involved and it takes up a lot of time, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding careers because of the feeling you get when you actually reach a child. I love teaching and I think the work that is involved is well worth the effort.

I have a Spanish‐speaking student in my classroom and communicating with her includes using printed translations to aid her comprehension. I see a need for general educators who can breech this language gap with multilingualism alternative to differentiation. Instead of ESL students being viewed as lacking language, they will have the advantages. Educators might differentiate instruction less and rely more on multilingualism to teach in their communities. Bilingual education can produce a new generation of individuals who can effectively communicate in a global society.

I worry that my second-grade students are already showing signs of test anxiety. When did we let the excitement vanish from our classrooms and let teaching to the test take over? When did our days get so numbered and crammed with content? I am worried about this current generation of students. Math and language arts predominate as science and social studies are pushed to the side. These students may never get to experience the versatile learning we seemed to have as children; for that I am truly disappointed.

A story is only as good as the person that writes it. As future educators, the pen is naturally being handed over to us. In our changing world, the profile of American education is also shifting; we need to adapt in order for our story to flow seamlessly. It's in our hands to serve the needs of students by maximizing the way we use the resources available. It's important that actual classroom teachers take a prominent role in the curriculum and policy making processes. Who could better understand what to teach than teachers?

As the profile of our country changes, the demographics of classrooms change and English Language Learners are increasing. During my final semester as a pre-service teacher, nearly a third of the students in my classroom do not speak English at home. It is essential for teachers to realize different languages, such as Spanish, are more prevalent than ever; moreover, teaching English Language Learners is sure to be a more significant part of the profession.

For this essay, I wanted to expand the conversation on education to include pre-service teachers, thereby giving their views credibility. Perhaps the way I interact with these students, asking for their perspectives, models a more facilitative role for teacher‐educators alternative to assuming an all‐consuming expert status. Inasmuch as undergraduates learn from me, teachers at all levels of education understand how much they can and should learn from their students.