If you want to see the future of teacher training, you could do worse than to visit Samantha Patterson’s kindergarten classroom at North Star Academy Charter School of Newark. On a blustery winter day in Newark, N.J., Patterson’s students are clustered in three groups of about eight students each. One group is working independently on a set of computers that line a wall of the second-floor classroom. A second set is listening quietly while another teacher reads a story. But the real excitement surrounds the third group.
Their fire-engine-red chairs pulled up literally knee-to-knee with Patterson, the students are enraptured in a round of call-and-response practice aimed at teaching how vowel sounds blend. But it’s not just verbal—it’s a fast-moving, full-body experience with gestures for clues, launched by the teacher and echoed by the students in quick, joyful volleys. No one misses the action, not even for a moment. Experienced teachers with skills like these are rare enough. For a first-year teacher to display such skills is exceptional. But for schools to get better, early-career teachers with strong skills are going to have to become a whole lot less exceptional.
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