Friday, August 21, 2015

Teacher Candidate Education: What's Important?

What does it take to prepare an individual to teach well?

What are important components of a preservice program?

What experiences did I have as a preservice teacher that truly helped launch my career in positive ways?

As I embark on the charge to guide a number of teacher candidates through a portion of their teacher preparation program this fall, I am mindful of these questions, and I have the following thoughts. Please feel free to contact me if you have thoughts about this as I'd like to see this from the broad perspective.

We'll begin the semester with the creation of ePortfolios. Every teacher will be responsible for creating, updating, and sharing their ePortfolio throughout the semester. This ePortfolio will not only serve as evidence of their coursework, but they'll also be able to use this ePortfolio later as they look for jobs and develop their practice as elementary school teachers. Several of the ePortfolio pages will also be utilized in their hard copy portfolio binders which are required by the university program.

Elements of Teaching Well
Since most of these educators will find themselves teaching in Massachusetts, I think it's important that they have an introduction and a chance to reflect on Massachusetts' identified thirty-three elements for teaching well. In some way, we'll spend time during each class reflecting on one or two elements for a brief amount of time. Educators' brief written reflections will be added to a chart in their ePortfolio demonstrating an initial understanding of the elements required to teach well with a specific focus on mathematics.

Understanding of Common Core and State Standards: A Blended/Differentiated Model
Since Massachusetts schools are standards-based, we will also spend time interacting with the standards in a number of ways. I will assess students' deep knowledge related to the standards for PreK-8 using a practice MTEL test. Once I review the tests, I'll differentiate students' opportunities to study, learn, and enrich their standards-base skill and knowledge. Students will develop and enrich their standards-base knowledge, concept, and skill with a differentiated, blended learning model that mirrors the way teachers teach today. Activities that will be included in this differentiated, blended model will include the following:
  • Online learning platforms such as SCRATCH,, Khan Academy, That Quiz, Xtra Math, TenMarks, and more
  • Books and articles from a wide variety of online and real time sources
  • Problem solving strategies and processes.
  • Work with manipulatives and hands-on learning
  • Project/Problem Base Learning
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Field studies
LifeLong Professional Learning and Development
Students will be introduced to the many channels with which they can develop their lifelong professional learning and development. As we know, good teachers continually learn and adapt to the changing world of learning and teaching. Education is not a fixed entity. 

As lifelong learners teacher candidates will have the opportunity to learn about and practice the following lifelong learning activities and endeavors:
  • Participation in a professional learning conference or event.
  • Participation in online chats and exchange via Twitter and/or other social media mediums.
  • Following and reading professional blogs, newspapers, articles, and more online or off.
  • Reflecting on this experience and developing a learning path plan. 
Students will have the opportunity to work in a classroom each week. As part of that work, students will observe the teaching, reflect, and teach two or more lessons as well. 

To teach the lesson, students will be required to do the following:
  • Identify the standard(s)
  • Unpack the standard with detail and attention.
  • Design the lesson using this page as a guide. 
  • Teach the lesson. If possible I would like students to have their lessons videotaped by the master teacher.
  • Collect and show evidence of student learning.
  • Reflect on the lesson.
  • Present their lesson and reflection to other teacher candidates.
Teachers as Leaders
Teachers are expected to be models, mentors, coaches, and leaders. They lead young children in their lives. It's important for educators to understand the competencies required for teacher leadership, growth, and development.

We'll spend time as a class reviewing, discussing, practicing, assessing, and reflecting on the following competencies for teacher leadership:
  • Reflective Practice
  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Interperson Effectiveness
  • Communication
  • Continuing Learning
  • Group Process
  • Technological Facility
  • Adult Learning with regard to collegial collaboration and Teamwork.
Tech Integration
Students will be expected to integrate technology into all aspects of their teaching and learning for this course. Each student will be required to bring a lap top to class, share via the Internet, and present using multimedia presentation. Similarly students' lessons will require the use of tech integration too. Homework will include the use of multiple platforms for study, learning, and share.

Data Collection and Analysis
As part of their portfolio, candidates will collect and analyze their own data and the data of the teacher candidate class (mostly without names). Candidates will also have the chance to collect and analyze data with regard to the lessons they teach as part of their practicum. 

As the adjunct professor, I will do everything I can to coach each student toward mastery with regard to the specific assignments, knowledge, and skill requirements of the course. I'm looking forward to getting to know each student well and learning their story of why they've decided to embark on this education journey and what they hope to achieve during the semester.

As noted before, let me know if there's anything I missed or if there are resources you think I shouldn't leave out with regard to providing these students with a top-notch introduction to elementary school teaching with a focus on mathematics. Thanks in advance for your share.