Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Being Around Kids Is a Good Way to Learn How To Teach Kids. I'll Be Damned.

This article from the Indianapolis Star-Tribune is rather humorous to me, because it reports things that we've long known about student teaching in such a way as to make you think they're recent discoveries. To wit:

Matt Taylor shoveled mulch into metal trash cans, a wheelbarrow and a red wagon while supervising fifth-grade students who distributed the mulch to create a quarter-mile walking path at DeVaney Elementary School.

“By doing this with them, I get more of an idea of their likes and dislikes,” said the Indiana State University senior elementary education major. “Also, on days when they’re a little rowdy, it wears them out a little bit. Maybe their parents will thank you for it.”

Helping create the walking path wasn’t all volunteer work on Taylor’s part. It was a classroom project and part of Taylor’s duties as he worked alongside an experienced educator during the fall semester learning what it takes to lead a classroom before his student teaching semester.

The Newport resident is part of ISU’s pilot program Teachers of Tomorrow Advancing Learning (TOTAL).
I've had a fairly long parade of student teachers and practicum students come through my classroom in recent years. Eastern Washington U requires 3 hours a week of the college kids when they enroll in Ed200, the first education class. Later on there's a practicum (3 hours a week over the course of the quarter), and then the 10 weeks of student teaching. If the students can schedule their practicum and their student teaching in back-to-back quarters that's a happy thing, because it makes the adjustment into student teaching that much easier.

And regarding student teaching:

“When they student teach, at a certain point in the semester the teacher leaves them in the classroom for a two-week period to plan and deliver all of the instruction,” she said. “The TOTAL student is never left alone in the classroom and is never responsible for the full day of instruction.”
2 weeks?

Seriously, that's all they ask? Two weeks of alone time? I've always made my student teachers do at least 4 weeks where they do all the planning and delivering of instruction, sort of on a model like this:

  • 4 weeks of phase-in, where they learn the classroom routines and the kids, adjust to some of the grunt work, do assessing, etcetera.
  • 4 weeks where they are solely responsible for the lesson planning and putting the day together. I'll double check their plans and share with them the materials that I have, along with providing a rough outline of where I want them to go, but how they structure things is entirely up to them.*
  • 2 weeks of phase out where I ship them to other grades and programs to do observations.
The * is a caveat to say that it depends on how the student teacher is doing; if they can't handle planning on their own, I'll certainly take it over from them and be a lot more hands on than I would normally be. They're still my kids, after all.

I really enjoy having the college kids come through my room. I often learn just as much from them as they do from me, and that synergy can really make the classroom hum.

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