Monday Memo, March 11, 2013
A new partnership between two JCPS elementary schools and a local college will better prepare aspiring teachers for the realities of the classroom.
Since February, a group of 30 elementary education students at Indiana University Southeast (IU Southeast) have spent about four hours each Wednesday and Thursday inside classrooms at Young and King Elementary Schools.
The partnership initiated from a discussion between Young Elementary Principal Mary Minyard and retired JCPS educator Marcia Davis, who is a lecturer at the IU Southeast School of Education. The two previously worked together at Hazelwood Elementary.
The 30 students are undergraduate juniors in Davis' class. They are in their first of four blocks of an education program that will prepare them to teach elementary education. They are working toward their bachelor's degree in either elementary education or special education.
"We wanted our students out in the field from the very beginning," Davis said. "We wanted them to be in a school similar to one where they might start out."
The college students act as helpers and observers in the classroom. They do not lead group instruction or supervise students on their own. Instead they assist the teacher by reading with students, working one-on-one with students on class assignments, reviewing questions and homework, and observing classroom transitions and behavior. The IU Southeast students serve as extra eyes, ears, and helping hands.
Minyard proposed the idea and the partnership to several teachers in the fall. The Young teachers have enjoyed the opportunity, she said. Many teachers have graciously offered parts of their planning periods to answer questions or explain classroom management strategies to the IU Southeast students. Most of Minyard's teachers have between 2 to 5 years of teaching experience, enough to distinctly remember their own first impressions inside a classroom. Four IU Southeast faculty members supervise the student visits, and at least one is always present at the school with the IU Southeast students.
"It's a good thing," Minyard said. "When someone is in your classroom, it raises expectations."
The IU Southeast students see the theories and ideas of the college classroom put into practice. The three-hour seminar class allows them a chance to reflect about their time in the elementary schools and discuss their experiences.
"I think the first word that most of them use is overwhelmed with what is expected of teachers," Davis said. "They're also worried about how to help the lower-learning students."
While feeling overwhelmed at first is certainly understandable, the IU Southeast students are learning that success managing a classroom requires practice and skill.
"They don't walk in and have a successful class," Minyard said. "It takes a very intentional thought process about how this happens. It's not a 9-to-5. Never has been."
The partnership also introduces IU Southeast students to the layers of support available for JCPS teachers, such as behavior coaches, literacy coaches, Family Resource Youth Services Centers (FRYSCs), school psychologists, and school social workers.
"It's just good to be here and see how the real world operates," Davis said. "They're getting a good feel for all the planning that goes into it."
CeCoiya Johnson, a 2006 graduate of Central High School MCA, is a junior at IU Southeast and studying to become an elementary educator and eventually an elementary principal. Johnson has tutored students for years at St. George's Community Center in the West End, and she has wanted to be a teacher ever since her kindergarten teacher inspired her.
"I loved how she nurtured us and how she related to us," Johnson said. "I wanted to be just like her. I used to dress like her."
Johnson is scheduled to graduate in December 2014, and she hopes to begin teaching-possibly in JCPS-in the 2015-16 school year.
The IU Southeast students are already discussing what education-related books they should read this summer. Among the 15 IU Southeast students at Young Elementary, only one has said the experience has changed her mind about going into teaching.
"We talk about that in class," Davis said. "If you can't see yourself doing this, it may not be for you."