Effective Practices : Human Resources
Human Resources Section 12
1. Does your school regularly have teacher trainees in the classroom?
2. What are the roles and responsibilities of these trainees?
3. Who is responsible for coordinating and evaluating the work of these trainees?
4. What makes the use of teacher trainees particularly effective for the trainees? For the school? For the students?
5. What are the underlying philosophies or practices that make a school’s use of teacher trainees particularly effective?
Does your school regularly have teacher trainees in the classroom?
All schools surveyed indicated that they have teacher trainees in their classrooms from time to time. The frequency of these visits in schools is primarily related to the proximity of the school to established teacher training institutes-those that are nearby to an institute seem to have trainees visiting in classrooms on a far more frequent basis. In some cases the number of requests for classroom visits can be overwhelming for schools near to an active institute.
What are the roles and responsibilities of these trainees?
Teacher trainee visits begin on a limited basis and then escalate in length and intensity as the training program progresses. The schedule for these visits varies depending on whether a trainee is in a full or part-time program and which institute the trainee attends. Generally speaking a trainee might make three visits, according to an agenda provided by the teacher-training institute. In the first year of teacher training the students come for three days of observation. This part is fairly easy for the school. In the second year the trainee does some teaching and is involved in the block preparation. Ideally the trainee will teach an entire block in the third year. The work of coordinating these visits increases as the level of trainee participation in the classroom escalates.
During an extended practicum the teacher trainee usually observes a class throughout the day for an entire week. In the second week she may take on a part of the circle or tell the story or do some form drawing with the class. Other possibilities include singing or teaching a song on the recorder. Gradually the trainee builds her repertoire and becomes increasingly confident in her work with the children. There may be a period co-teaching, and then a period of one to three weeks where the trainee is fully responsible for the class.
Interns are not used as substitutes, but are recognized as responsible adults that can assist in the work of holding a class. If the class teacher is absent one day the trainee can support the substitute by providing a link to the usual rhythms of the class, or continue the planned teaching in an informed way with another teacher present in the classroom.
In addition to classroom teaching the trainees are often required to select a student in the class and to do a child study. The trainee provides a written report of her observations to her supervising teacher at the school. The trainee also keeps a journal of her experience during the practicum; the trainee shares it with her advisor at the training institute.
The roles and responsibilities of the teacher trainees is very individualized and seeks to meet the requirements of the teacher training institute, the interests and needs of the trainee, and the style and needs of the host teacher and her class. All teacher trainees work on an unpaid basis; this work is a requirement of their teacher-training program. Several schools noted that in some cases having a teacher trainee can be great fun and lighten the load for a teacher, but more frequently having a teacher trainee in the classroom requires a great deal of focus and additional work.
Who is responsible for coordinating and evaluating the work of these trainees?
The coordination of these visits happens in various ways in different schools. In some schools a coordinating teacher has been appointed as the liaison between the school and the institute. In another school it is the faculty chair that receives the requests, with the actual coordination going through the College of Teachers. In yet another school the administrator serves as the coordinator for these visits. Generally speaking the coordinator receives the incoming calls from the training institutes and notifies the faculty of the request and looks to see who might be qualified and interested in working with a particular trainee.
The evaluation of trainees is based on what the teacher-training institute has established prior to the trainee’s visit. The teacher who observes the practice teaching does the evaluation of the trainee. The questionnaires provided by the training centers are thorough and look at items including grooming, preparation, and artistic ability. Teachers are also asked, “Can you see this person being a teacher?” Some teachers noted that at times it is difficult to answer this question honestly due to the emotional ties that develop during the mentoring process.
The tone of the evaluation changes as the trainee grows in experience. At the beginning of the practicum feedback is encouraging and helpful in tone, but by the end of the practicum the advice is much more evaluative and direct.
In addition to the feedback provided to the trainee and the institute by the host teacher, it is common for the institute to have an advisor from the training center make at least two observations during the course of an extended practicum.
What makes the use of teacher trainees particularly effective for the trainees? For the school? For the students? The following response from one school illustrates the benefits of this program for all concerned:
The school offers six visiting days each year when the teacher trainees may come and observe before making a commitment to come to the school. This helps students make informed choices, and feel more confident about the appropriateness of their selection of a school to do their practicum.
Some institutes offer a one-unit class free of charge to the class teacher in exchange for doing this work with a trainee. This gesture does help teachers to feel that their work is valued and appreciated.
The school has quite a few experienced teachers, many who have taken more than one class through eight grades. The school is close to a major city, which is attractive to some students. As a mature school offering a full curriculum with grades K through 12, there is a lot of opportunity for exposure and interaction available to teacher trainees.
Interns can bring useful, refreshing perspectives that are of value to the community. They are able to see things with fresh eyes. The children often have a strong connection to these interns. At times the interns act as an assistant if there are special needs in the class. Class teachers often feel very supported by having another helpful, caring adult in the class. It’s also a nice opportunity for experienced teachers to feel recognized for the good work that they do in the classroom.
There are also benefits for the students from having interns in the classrooms. At times the intern can provide extra support for students with academic challenges. In other cases the strong personal connections that sometimes develop allow students to speak to an adult on topics they might not want to share with their class teacher. When interns stay with a class for the special subject classes this second set of eyes can be very helpful to the students and the class teacher.
What are the underlying philosophies or practices that make a school’s use of teacher trainees particularly effective?
The longer the internship the better it is for everyone. Short internships do not serve the student teacher or the movement.
A good internship is a possibility for recruitment. It gives an opportunity for insight into someone’s work in a way that can’t be achieved in an interview or by observing a short sample lesson.
The school only matches trainees with experienced teachers. Schools that are well established provide an opportunity for student teachers to see how a strong school is managed. This is an important picture for the trainee to be able to take into her work, especially if she begins teaching in a less developed school.
There is a strong belief that the teacher training should be more and more practical with lots and lots of classroom teaching time. Trainees need to be with the students much more during their training, and schools are willing to give this extra time in recognition of the value it brings to these future teachers.
Teacher trainees must be allowed to take up real work in the classroom. They must get a sense of what they will really encounter once they have classes of their own.