Monday, March 24, 2014

Get a Student Teacher

Sorry for the radio silence, loyal readers! C and I recently moved and are Internet-less as we carefully weigh our provider options in rural Central Virginia. In the flurry of the move and the last few weeks before spring break, I've managed to find some time to update you all on how things are going in our  classroom. 

In the spirit of showing my work, here's how I generally spend my weekdays:

Hit the gym for some running or yoga, attend a morning meeting with teachers who teach the same grade levels or a guidance meeting with a student, (a) parent(s), and other teachers to discuss issues make a collaborative game plan about how to helps the student be more successful at school, teach for forty-eight minutes, collect work for students working in the in-school suspension program, teach two more forty-eight minute classes, meditate for five minutes, eat lunch while responding to e-mails, start grading, work on our SOL tutoring program or attend another student success meeting, teach two more forty-eight minute classes, tutor or attend a faculty meeting, go to my Spanish for Educators class or second job depending on the day, spend a little time eating some food with a friend or my sweetie, finish grading, take on more swipe at my inboxes, and get ready for bed. 

I need two of me.

My students really two of me.

This semester, I haven't mastered the art of adult human cloning. However, I did volunteer to have a student teacher. This decision has turned out to be one of the best I've made in my teaching career so far.

Ms. R. has been another consistent, caring adult with whom my students can connect. She takes on my duty two days a week and organizes student work after I've graded it. She's also gotten involved in our tutoring planning. 

Is there a way to give every teacher in the US this sort of support? Or perhaps the teachers in schools that have high-needs populations? The research on teacher residency programs such as the ones in Boston, Seattle, and Chicago so far has used testing outcomes to measure the programs. Researchers at Harvard found that the Boston program only "modestly" improved student achievement once residents moved into their own classrooms. 

Veteran readers of this blog might suspect that there are a few things I value more than standardized test scores. The Harvard research also found that teachers who came through the residency program were more likely to stay with the district, providing stability in a division that has nearly 50 percent turnover.

Residency programs or student teacher support may be difficult to scale in that we don't need a 1:1 replacement rate in our schools. What we do need, however, is a way for teachers to grow in the profession without permanently leaving the classroom. Residency programs could provide this missing professional growth piece.

Residents could work in classroom support for three years, gradually taking over more of the day-to-day management of teaching, lesson planning, and the like. After they transition to being the the full-time teacher, the mentor teacher could then spend time working as a master teacher who provides vertical alignment, common assessment planning, classroom teacher evaluation, and the many other administrative tasks that could be completed by someone without an administrative license. The master teacher could then transition back into the classroom with new ideas and a refreshed attitude to mentor a new teacher resident and work with a new group of students.

Fellow teachers, until this virtuous cycle becomes a reality, let me offer you some advice: get a student teacher. 

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