One… Two… Three Questions About Education In BC
1. Is it time to flip the classroom on teacher education?
After receiving my B.A. from UBC in 1983, I went on to complete the one year professional teaching program. To complete my course of studies, I was required to do three separate practicums, two in the Lower Mainland and one outside of it, for a total of eight weeks of classroom experience.
As the saying goes, life is what happens when you make plans and I never did become a full-time classroom teacher. Reflecting back, I wonder how I would have coped in a classroom with so little direct experience. I’m not fully versed on the changes that have taken place with the professional programs since then, but I still wonder if teachers get enough of an introduction to the career they’ve selected.
What if it’s time to flip the classroom on teacher education? What if less time were spent on a university campus and more time in a K-12 classroom? What if student teachers were paid a living wage, worked during the school year, and did course work in the summer? With such a model, would we benefit by having a second adult in a classroom to assist teachers with the increased demands of inquiry-based teaching and support students with their personalized learning? Would we gain teachers who are better prepared for classrooms comprised of many students with special needs including many more English Language Learners? Teachers who had more direct knowledge of the career they’ve chose? In this way, would we be able to provide more staff to better support all students in their many and varied learning styles?
2. What do parents want?
There are many things parents want and expect from the public education system. I’m not going to launch into enumerating the laundry list of expectations, but here’s the one “request” which I believe is paramount. Parents, I believe, would like the needs of their children to be assessed and met on a timely basis without having to bang on drums for attention or to wait and wait and wait and to have measures introduced much too late in a child’s progress and development. Yes, this is an issue of resources, but it is also an issue of responsiveness in schools and understanding that the children losing out are not always those with the most easily identifiable needs. The children who are significantly at risk, it seems to me, are those who may appear typical but whose needs, if neglected, result in bad behaviour and consequences much more severe than they might have been had interventions been introduced earlier.
3. How do we define school?
It seems to me that we have a picture of school as it was, as it is, and as it ought to be. I think there’s general agreement that the most successful model will be one which is student-centered. If we agree on such a fundamental principle, why can’t we find a way to work together to build that model so that when talking about the world’s best school system, BC is referred to as often, if not more often, than Finland?
RE: Question 1, a few thoughts…
I do believe teachers in training need more time in a classroom. For myself anyways, that is where I learnt the most, and where my greatest growth occurred. In the ten week practicum the teacher was rarely in the room and I sustained teaching 100%. It is so important to have that opportunity when you have an available mentor in the school, and faculty from the university program. I just wish I could have taught in more classrooms. Being in an intensive one year program, in order to even visit other classes I had to do it during the winter break. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have more immersed experiences with support?
I think it’s great that you had 3 separate practicum experiences, but on the other hand, that didn’t allow you much time in any of them, did it? I wonder what is more beneficial: numerous varied experiences, or a lengthy experience where you fall more into the role of “teacher”?
Many student teachers give me a look when I mention this one, but I don’t feel that completing a BEd in one year is worth the “saved” time in the long run. The one year program is stressful, but we can learn to handle the stress; that is not my complaint. I just don’t think it’s the best way to learn. You’re barely keeping your head above water – how can you truly reflect and put into practice what you are learning in theory? Looking back on my journey I wish I had enrolled in a program that took longer, even despite the fact I purposely picked a one year program. “Live and learn” some may say, but maybe it is something that needs to be talked about more so prospective teachers think it over prior to starting.
On your point about having a year long paid practicum this is something I have thought about but haven’t really formed an opinion yet. Perhaps I feel it wouldn’t happen (paid year! haha) and that is the barrier in my mind. I think it would be a great partnership though, as practicums are. I learn from my mentor teacher and she loves learning from me as well. As for the kids, having an extra adult in the room would be wonderful. Between my practicums I had weekly visits which really allowed for students to get more support once a week by having two teachers in the room. The thing is though, that is a bonus byproduct of having a student teacher, and shouldn’t be how we are putting extra support into our classes. Although I don’t know much on this, I am aware of some private schools here in the lower mainland hiring brand new teachers as internship students and paying half a normal salary for their first year. I don’t know anyone who has done it so I’m not sure they feel they are getting additional guided learning experience, or simply working at a lower wage.
Great questions, thanks for sharing.
Thanks Cassandra. I received a tweet from a teacher about a pilot project in Australia which is structured as a one-year paid internship. I think that’s a very intriguing notion. I really appreciate your input and wish you all the very best with your studies.
I’d like to hear more about the paid internship pilot project that took place in Australia – is there any information available online?
At a conference in Winnipeg this year I learnt about a course “Orientation to Teaching”, that must be taken before students can begin their BEd at the University of Lethbridge. It ensures that they actually get time in the classroom before starting. More info: http://www.uleth.ca/education/programs-degrees/undergraduate-studies/field-experiences/education-2500/ed-2500-practicum
I’ve sent a Twitter request to see if there’s a link for more information on the Australian program and have copied you on that. Thanks for the link to the University of Lethbridge “Orientation to Teaching” course. That’s a great idea!
In terms of “paid practicums” I would encourage you to look at some of the intern/associate teacher positions that CAIS (www.cais.ca) and the various provincial (www.isabc.ca, http://www.cisontario.ca) independent schools put out every year. These tend to be a combination of residence duties, coaching, substitute teaching, etc, as well as some where you are a second teacher in the room.
So while paid practicums don’t exist in the public system, independent schools have found great value in the system!
Thank you Graeme for your providing the information. Interesting to see that this model is in place within the independent school system. I think it’s definitely something worth exploring.