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A doctor says: Teachers need child development training, too

The third chapter in “Those Who Dared,” the book I’m excerpting every day this week, is by James Comer, a medical doctor who leads Yale University’s Comer School Development Program. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and other education officials in New York City and elsewhere have disparaged education schools, arguing that bright, tireless young adults who have taken crash courses in the mechanics of teaching often make the best teachers. But in his essay, Comer says some of the most valuable preparation for teachers is instruction in child development, a staple of education school programs.

Comer describes speaking to school personnel after an incident when a new student became frustrated, kicked his third-grade teacher, and ran away:

I joked to the teachers and administrators, “That was a situation of fight-and-flight rather than fight-or-flight.” They looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. They did not know what I was talking about. Almost every first-year social and behavioral science student would have understood my meaning. … These New Haven teachers were out there on the front line without having received this basic knowledge. It was at this moment that I had my great epiphany: Teachers and not being adequately prepared to teach children — their primary mission. They are not being given the yeast needed to bake the bread — they are not shown how to apply child development knowledge and skills to their practice.

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