Loop the Student Teacher Experience

Molly Reed Education, Mentoring

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I am happy to no longer be a first year teacher. I remember bits and pieces of the nine months, but what stands out the most after ten years is that I resigned.

Yes, after that first year I quit. I contributed to the teacher retention statistics that half leave the profession after five years. Although I returned that August, I have been thinking about what led me to that decision as well as what brought me back. Why?  I am deeply concerned with the preparedness of new teachers. I want them to succeed, but something seems to be lacking.

In fellow SFSAZ Kelly's last blog, she referred to Teacher in a Strange Land's post on tips for first year teachers and was left with questions:

Shouldn’t new teachers already know these things before stepping into the classroom?  Shouldn’t all new teachers have connected with an inspiring mentor?  Shouldn’t all new teachers have read key professional books?  Shouldn’t all new teachers have been exposed to great teaching?

Like Kelly, I agree the answer should be yes.

As educators, we always put our students first. Their needs drive our teaching. Why aren't we doing the same with teacher preparation programs? Last year I wrote on the topic, but I would like to add an idea…Looping.

Familiar with it? It refers tokeeping the same students from one year to the next. At my school, teachers have the option of a multiage class like a 1st/2nd or teaching a class for second grade and then looping with them to third. Benefits include an already establish class community the second year, students know their teacher, the teacher already knows her students and their families, and it allows for the teacher to be able to start "teaching" from day one.

Why not adopt the looping model for student teachers? Why end student teaching when they graduate? Why not continue to have cooperating teachers mentor them through their first year of teaching? I understand many districts already have new teacher mentoring in play, but why not just continue with the relationship already established in student teaching? New teachers would benefit similarly to those in looped classrooms.

Sure, I see issues…

  • What if the student teacher doesn't get hired? Perhaps that could be part of the teacher preparation program? There are many programs that pay for tuition with a two year teaching commitment after graduation, and the schools are already selected.
  •  What if they are hired in a school across town/state/country? Have we heard of the internet and video conferencing? It could be weekly meetings with new teachers and their continuing mentors. To me, it sounds like a wonderful opportunity for meaningful professional development.
  • What if the partnership was not ideal? I will refer to the great opportunity I had this year with my student teacher observing/teaching the semester before for one and a half days every week. At the end of the semester, she or I could have made other choices for placement. Really the partnership begins before the student teaching.
  • Funding. Grants, maybe? Like above, perhaps districts and universities could work together.

Maybe I would have loved  my first year and not resigned if I had my amazing cooperating teacher to dialogue with and plan. 

What do you think?

 

Molly Reed

Tucson, Arizona

My classroom teaching experience has been in Tucson’s urban public schools with grades first through fifth. Beginning my eleventh year of teaching, I am the Outdoor Learning Coordinator at a Project Based Learning primary school. I am a National Board Certified Teacher (ECGen) with a BA in Elementary Education and MA in Teaching and Teacher Education from the University of Arizona.

My introduction to teaching occurred during a National Outdoor Leadership School semester which led me to work as an outdoor educator traveling throughout the United States and South America. I am interested in connecting with other educators and those interested in the changes in schools with education policy.

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