Part of my job as a professor of teacher education is to supervise students during their senior student teaching experience. This involves visiting each student in her classroom eight times during the semester. During each visit I observe the student working with children as they learn what it really means to be a classroom teacher. It's the time when they get to put into practice all the things they have learned during the courses that comprise their teacher education program at St. Mike's. Last year, because of other course load commitments, I wasn't able to do this. Only now, when I am once again supervising students in classrooms, do I realise just how much I missed this part of my job.
I now have confirmation of what I always thought; not only is it a critical part of our students' education it's also a critical part of my ongoing education as a teacher educator. I now realise that for a whole year, the first time in my professional life, I was cut off from the public school classroom. Looking back, I can see what I missed; no new stories about things children do; no new learning about the things teachers use in their day to day interactions with children. For example, I learned this morning that teachers at one of the schools where two of my students are, Allenbrook school in Williston, now have access to an IPAD2 cart that allows them to integrate this wonderful piece of technology into their teaching. I plan to use the iPAD2 in one of my courses this semester but I wasn't sure until this morning whether this was a realistic expectation for prospective teachers to develop their skills in. I also learned that we can no longer assume that children know how to use a traditional telephone. One of the first grade students had no idea how to hang-up an old press-button 'phone.
My weekly visits to classrooms keep me grounded in the day to day activities of teachers; the way students in K - 5 classrooms learn and behave. Being in schools on a weekly basis is a way of keeping me honest in the things I teach about in my other courses. I have three student teachers in first grade classrooms and one in a fourth grade classroom and they are all doing really well. The cooperating teacher we use in public schools are wonderful; skilled not only in working with their students but also in the challenges of helping their St. Mike's interns develop their teaching skills.