Saturday, February 11, 2012

Student Teachers?

I remember my student teaching experience vividly.  I was placed in an Boston school with a wonderful veteran  teacher, Mr. Murray.  I had a spirited, multicultural class who was eager to learn.  It was that busy 20-something stage of life when I was juggling part time jobs, university study, my social life, family responsibilities and student teaching.  I was so thankful for Mr. Murray's support during that three-month period, and I learned a lot.

Many years later, I find myself hosting student teachers.  It is an invaluable experience for so many reasons. First, student teachers create a bridge between schools and a college or university.  This is an essential partnership as the two-way flow of information from classroom to university, and university to classroom creates dynamic discussion, planning and instruction to benefit students.

Next, student teachers infuse a school with optimism, idealism, spirit and energy.  They provide us with a new lens with which to see our school and learning environment.  The student teachers bring new ideas, youthful perspectives and what I call, the "cool" factor that often only young teachers can bring to a school.

Also, the student teacher is an extra pair of hands, and when working with young children that is vital.  The student teacher allows more student-centered, small group, responsive instruction to occur which results in meeting more student needs and happy, fulfilled children.

The student-teacher, practicing teacher collaboration is a win-win since both practicing teacher and student teacher have to think deeply about their goals, vision and work as they plan units, communicate and work together for best effect.  The student teacher's assignments force the practicing teacher to revisit and revise curriculum goals, standards, processes and projects to meet the latest research in teaching, while the student teacher applies tried-and-true, classroom ready approaches and procedures to his/her plans.

The visiting professor or student teacher liaison also plays an important role in this collaboration.  When the professor visits, it is a time for targeted conversation about classroom events and practices.  Often we will refine and renew classroom procedures, plans and standards as we discuss best practices and student growth.

Developing dynamic school-university/college partnerships throughout the country is one way to develop optimal instruction and service to children.  Our school is fortunate to partake in student teaching programs as we recognize it is not only the student teachers who learn, but we learn and gain too.

How does your school partner with local universities and colleges?  Is there any State or federal money that supports your work?  Are you and your university partners developing these programs for best effect?

Sharing our collective knowledge can serve to enhance these programs to benefit students throughout the country. I look forward to learning about your partnerships and programs.