At the beginning of each semester, Bob Bain, an associate professor in the University’s School of Education, asks his students to write letters to their future selves to remind them of the teachers they want to be and the skills they want to utilize. He tells them what they’re learning isn’t preparing them for the moment, but for when they become teachers in 18 months.
Through new programs and graduation requirements, the School of Education is helping students become the teachers described in their letters. Five years ago, the School of Education began implementing new graduation requirements, including participation in the Clinical Rounds Project as well as providing the option to take part in the Mitchell/Scarlett-U-M Partnership. The program requires students studying to become secondary education teachers to have classroom teaching experience in addition to the education they gain through classes and textbooks.
According to Bain, students in the Clinical Rounds Project are required to work in five different schools, including public, private, urban and suburban schools, before graduation. This emphasis on classroom exposure enables students to “constantly raise the bar” in their teaching methods, Bain said.
In the past year, Bain added, the Clinical Rounds Project has expanded to the history and social science cohorts as well as the program’s original focal areas of math and science.
The School of Education has also recently begun focusing on “high-leverage practices” which emphasize experiential learning and interacting with students.
It is essential to produce students who have good teaching skills upon graduation, Bain said, especially in the current lackluster job market. The recent changes to the system allow student interns to practice and learn with students and teachers before jumping into their own classrooms. In order to learn, student interns are “paired with teachers who are teaching in ways we want our students to see,” Bain said.
Education senior Bridgit DeCarlo wrote in an e-mail interview that the Clinical Rounds Project has helped her get ready for her future career.
After experiencing both the initial phases of the program last year and the full program this year she feels the new methods have been beneficial.
“After seeing five different teachers and all of the projects we have covered, I’ll be prepared for our (full-time) student teaching this fall,” DeCarlo said.
Similarly, Education senior Kent Sparks said the hands-on experience has been advantageous.
“Being able to collaborate with five different teachers and districts before I student teach full-time really prepares me for the challenges of being a successful teacher,” Sparks said. “Having this extensive firsthand experience is what makes the difference and sets this program apart.”
School of Education Dean Deborah Ball said the Clinical Rounds Project is necessary to better prepare students for their future.
Before the program was fully implemented, Ball said, “A lot was resting on teachers learning from their own experience.”
Now, Ball added, students have the opportunity to learn in their “field experiences.” Ball said she hopes the skills students learn in the School of Education will spread to other parts of the country, especially to urban areas.
“Kids deserve to have a good education,” Ball said.
The elementary education program in the School of Education has also modified its curriculum to include additional student-teaching requirements. Student interns now work six hours per week for their first three semesters and spend the last semester teaching full-time, according to Betsy Davis, an associate professor in the School of Education.
Both the elementary education and secondary education programs videotape the students teaching in order to help them evaluate their own classroom performances.
Cathy Reischl, a clinical associate professor in the School of Education, said another new program is the Mitchell/Scarlett-U-M Partnership, previously called the lab school program. The partnership serves as a supplementary way for Education students to study how to support children as they learn, Reischl said.
Through the partnership, Education undergraduate and graduate students work with students in Ann Arbor’s Mitchell Elementary School and Scarlett Middle School before, during and after school hours.
By participating in the program, Reischl said, Education student interns are learning to teach by directly working with skilled teachers and students.
One of the program’s current goals is enhancing long-term professional development of English as a Second Language programs for K-5 teachers, Reischl said.
Mitchell Elementary School Principal Kathy Scarnecchia said the partnership gives everyone involved “opportunities to grow.”
“Our teachers will begin to articulate students their skills (and) the students will get the best teachers possible,” Scarnecchia said.