From college to the classroom

May 12, 2008, midnight | By Susie Branson | 15 years, 11 months ago

Teachers must closely monitor student-teachers' instruction of AP courses to meet College Board requirements

As senior Gabriela Acosta walks into her Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology classroom, a tall female teenager with short brown hair and a button up shirt stands at the front of the board talking to teacher Julia Smrek. While students continue to file into the room and take their seats, Acosta assumes the new girl to be a transfer or guest from another school. However, Smrek instead turns around and introduces the guest as Ms. Emma Aguilar, the class's new student-teacher for the semester from the University of Maryland. What Acosta soon came to discover in her AP Psychology class is that she and her new student-teacher would not only share the same classroom, but also the same birthdate.

AP Psychology, like any AP course offered throughout the country, is designed to be taught at a higher level than a normal high school class. According to The College Board website, when taught well, AP classes are supposed to be as challenging as many freshman-level college courses. These subjects can also offer a potential college credit if the individual scores well on the culminating national AP subject-specific test. As student-teachers are being granted permission to teach these supposed college-level classes, the relationship and responsibilities between the teacher and the student-teacher must be established in order for the class to properly meet AP class requirements and rigor.

The alarm arises over how an undergraduate college student can properly teach what is supposed to be a college-level class. Student-teachers are placed in real schools in order to get the experience of what it will be like to teach a class once they complete their degree. However, there is a nation-wide concern that these AP courses are not proper equivalents to freshman classes as these "college courses" are taught by students themselves. Despite the teacher's responsibilities to properly monitor the class and make sure that the College Board-approved AP course curriculum is being met, there is a fine line that is easily crossed when it comes to grading and in-class instruction.

The integration of college students interacting with high school students in pre-professional student-teacher programs creates a unique and sometimes difficult situation for older high school students. These relationships are frequently strained as high school students often find themselves struggling to succumb to the instruction of a similar and sometimes same-aged student-teacher. Acosta admits that to sit in a classroom and be lectured and graded by someone her exact same age is a difficult feat she is not accustomed to. "It is hard," Acosta said, "to maintain that level of authoritative respect when in my mind she is on my same level."

According to the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) department of Human Services, the definition of a student-teacher is a college student who is completing the final field experience prior to entering the teaching profession and has been assigned to practice teaching. Any student-teacher who gains the privilege to work as a student teacher in MCPS has assumedly successfully completed the appropriate rigorous courses to earn their position. However, this does not necessarily mean that they have the proper requirements or background to teach AP courses. Many AP teachers go through a variety of classes, lectures and workshops in order to be fully equipped to teach their class. Undergraduate student teachers cannot fulfill this commitment as they are trying to satisfy their own graduation requirements.

If a teacher is assigned a student-teacher to help assist their in-class instruction with an AP course, they must take the personal responsibility of closely monitoring the student-teacher's instruction, grading and classroom behavior. Although student-teachers are there to learn, the main priority for the teacher must be directed toward the AP students who must learn the material properly in order to do well on the test.

According to AP National State Local (NSL) government teacher David Swaney, the capability of a student-teacher teaching an AP class is "totally dependent on the student-teacher. Many student-teachers are right out of undergrad and are still academically under-prepared to teach at the AP level, but many are grad students with an academic depth of knowledge capable of teaching at that level."

This addresses another area of consideration: the difference between an undergraduate student-teacher and graduate student-teacher. Based on each individual college student's experiences and courses taken throughout school, they may in fact be prepared to teach an AP class. However, it is questionable that just four years after graduating from high school, undergraduate students will possess the qualifications to teach a college course.

However, despite the administrating teacher's role in classroom instruction, students must take responsibility in recognizing authority regardless of some possible tension that may exist between two parties of teenagers. As long as each AP teacher recognizes the risk and responsibility in allowing both graduate and especially undergraduate student-teachers to teach an AP course, teachers, student-teachers and students can successfully achieve balance in this difficult relationship.

Susie Branson. Key facts of Susie Branson: she's a junior in CAP, her favorite food is peanut butter, she plays soccer and lacrosse, she can't stand talking on the phone, loves country music, and her favorite ice cream is Phish Food. She is way too competitive for … More »

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