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Youth Leadership Experience Helpful in Preparing Teachers

I just read this great report by many of my Collaboratory colleagues, Teaching 2030: Leveraging Teacher Preparation. Since teacher preparation is on my mind, I want to add a point to the conversation that I've been meaning to mention for a while. 

For understandable reasons, people are trying figure out what factors contribute to a teacher's success, especially early on. I'd like to add youth leadership experience to the list of factors.  I've known many beginning teachers, and a few have really stood out for quickly becoming strong leaders in the classroom. A huge part of teaching is one's ability to lead a group of young people.  We often reduce this to "classroom management," but I believe those who do "it" well do much more than manage.  Leading takes vision, compassion, knowledge and creativity.

Many of the new teachers who I've seen meet with early success have had significant experience leading youth groups prior to classroom teaching. From leading a church youth group to running a summer camp to taking care of a large number of younger siblings, these teachers have an advantage in the classroom, because they've developed skills relevant to teaching. I saw early success in my own teaching, which I attribute in part to my experience watching and helping my mother run daycare groups in our house through my childhood.  

We sometimes talk about "natural" talent for teaching. Though there may be such a thing, early experiences in leading groups of youth can give an illusion of a teacher possessing natural talent, when he or she has actually learned and practiced leadership skills prior to teaching.

In the conversation around teacher preparation, we may want to look at giving credit to teacher candidates who come in with youth leadership experience or who invest extra time in gaining such experience. 

[image credit: www.dsj.org ]

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