Dave Metler isn’t a teacher yet, but he’s already looking for ways to transform the profession. The School of Education senior founded the Michigan Education Reform Club, which aims to address student concerns with the teaching profession.
Metler said he hopes to create a space in which education professionals and undergraduates in education can converse about their own teaching concerns, as well as compare techniques and ideas for creating the most stimulating educational environments.
“I think reform begins with ourselves first,” Metler said. “There is no consensus in the nation for how to prepare teachers. I am working with the club in developing an assessment of the science of education that kind of sets standards for teacher prep.”
He added that before becoming a successful teacher, one must master a particular set of skills and practices, and he hopes that club members will learn these skills by interacting more with their professors.
“I hope that once we have these (teaching skills) really well-defined and have a list — not that you would check off the whole list and be like I am going to be a great teacher — there will be things that you can be aware of or exposed to that will give you the skills and knowledge that you need as a member or in a profession,” he said. “We are trying to identify the high leverage practices that we need to master as teachers.”
Education Dean Deborah Ball said she thinks the club will be beneficial to students. While it is separate from the Teacher Education Initiative — a project she is spearheading to reform some of the teaching practices within the School of Education — the club will serve as a practical supplement to the goals of the initiative.
“(The School of Education is) developing new methods and approaches to training teachers,” she said. “(Metler’s) club has an effect that is much larger, and has to do with actually doing that, getting students involved in concerns of education even if they are not going to be teachers.”
Metler said he was motivated to start the club because he wanted to find other students who shared similar concerns about the educational field. Earlier this month, MERC held its first meeting, which was met with support from Ball and other faculty within the School of Education.
“This is something I’ve been passionate about and care so much about and have been thinking about for a while,” Metler said. “There have to be other undergrads that are as passionate as I am and want to spend time one or two nights a week to talk about issues we are going to face as teachers.”
LSA senior Stephanie Smith attended the club’s first meeting. She said the club fills a much-needed void by providing students with opportunities to interact more intimately with faculty to discuss their craft.
“I think the club is a really good way for undergraduates to get involved in the School of Education,” she said. “There hasn’t been a voice for undergraduates to express concerns and discuss issues we are going to face in our jobs in the next few years.”
Though MERC is still in the beginning stages of its development, the organization has big plans for the future.
Metler has already contacted members of Illinois State University’s club, Urban Needs in Teacher Education, which has similar ambitions, and he has arranged for them to work together to develop MERC and implement its ideas.
MERC is also working closely with Kappa Delta Phi, an honor society in the education field, and the Student Michigan Education Association to become more active within the School of Education.
Metler intends to maintain enthusiasm for MERC throughout the summer, with continued planning by a core team of active members to look for additional ways to reform how teachers are educated.
He said he wants to keep the group active because proper teacher education is necessary for proper teaching.
“The problems in teacher education are mirroring the problems in the schools,” he said.