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Student Teaching: Mentorship and Collaboration - A Video Reflection

Jenna Callaghan and Deirdre Bailey

Working with a student teacher these past few months has been an exciting and rewarding experience. From our first meeting, it was evident that Jenna and I shared a similar pedagogical philosophy; with a strong focus on reflection and discipline-based inquiry. Jenna’s early ideas and questions were guided by an honest vulnerability that allowed for a number of frank conversations around assessment, engagement and lesson design in an inquiry based classroom. My understanding of collaboration - developed and deepened through a powerful team-teaching relationship with Amy Park - had led to a familiarity with how professional collaborative relationships might evolve and I was excited to incorporate my prior understanding and experiences.

Inquiry based pedagogy has affected every aspect of my own practice and approach to collaborative learning and feedback. As Jenna and I often discuss, comprehensive assessment in an inquiry learning space is a collaborative activity involving both learner and mentor, and is intended as a tool to advance learning and improve practice. Face-to-face conversation is often the most natural and instrumental assessment tool for formative feedback in our classroom. Leading up to Jenna’s mid-term narrative assessment, we reflected on its purpose and identified that ultimately it should provide Jenna with a chance to solidify her understanding of what worked and was important in the classroom in as authentic a format as possible. We agreed that a face-to-face conversation would provide the best opportunity for Jenna to verbalize her perspective and ideas to date, and through shared conversation we might have the potential to reflect more meaningfully than through an individual, written process. 

The power of Jenna’s reflection is not only that it provided her with an opportunity to share frankly and openly in a more casual format, it also provided me with an important opportunity to hear about the work that we undertake in our classroom articulated from the perspective of a partner educator. Her interpretation has allowed me to deepen my understanding of what we do in our classroom space; how and why. It shows tremendous courage and vulnerability that Jenna has been so willing to reflect on her learning in such an open fashion. It is this openness to self-reflection that I believe has been a major catalyst for the evolution of our collaborative relationship and ongoing professional learning. Sincere thanks to Jenna for her candid willingness to try new things, and to our school community for inspiring the re-thinking of student-teacher/ partner-teacher relationships and assessment. 

I clearly remember the day I received the email notifying me that my final practicum placement would be spent teaching Grade 4 Math/Science at the Calgary Science School. I was walking down the hall on my way to my Assessment class and actually screamed in excitement! I had long been intrigued by the school, and had hoped to have the opportunity to spend more time there since a morning visit for a presentation on inquiry in the first year of my BEd program. Even in my excitement, I could not have anticipated what an amazing experience this final Field Placement would become. 

In previous experiences, I always got along well with my partner teachers, but none of these relationships ever progressed further than what I would typically think of as a student/mentor dynamic. It seems that Deirdre and I connected immediately. We have a common understanding of our purpose in teaching, and have developed a strong relationship from the beginning of this experience. Our student-teacher/partner-teacher dynamic has naturally evolved into a situation that involves more team teaching than individual teaching, planning everything together through constant conversation (before, during, and after each day), and finishing each others’ sentences more and more. As a result of this connection and our constant collaboration, we have been able to produce ideas and teach in a way that never would have been possible alone!

For my Midterm Assessment, I was given instructions to summarize a discussion between Deirdre and I with the purpose being to reflect on several areas of my teaching practice thus far. As Deirdre is a technology whiz, one of my goals for this practicum was to meaningfully incorporate increased technology into my practice. Furthermore, with our shared belief that vulnerability is key for teachers to learn and grow in their practice, it felt natural that we would complete this reflection in a way that we could then share with a wider audience. Sharing a video reflection online is a scary, intimidating experience, and I am certainly feeling very vulnerable because of it, but I truly believe any feedback will only push to me grow more and to continually develop a deeper understanding of what it is we do. Thanks Deirdre for allowing me the opportunity to take these risks, and for viewing me as a valuable educator within the classroom.      

Blog cross-posted on Savouring the Ish

1 comment:

Garry McKinnon said...

Deirdre and Jenna,

You offer some significant insights through your narratives relating to your experiences as a partner teacher and student teacher. As you both observe,it takes courage to leave yourself vulnerable as you become engaged in a process of reflecting on your philosophies and pedagogical practices. The video clip is very effective in describing how collaboratively you have developed a deeper understanding of teaching and learning through a disposition of inquiry and how you have gained a greater appreciation of how teaching is an ongoing process of learning. As a school community we embrace opportunities to work with a large number of student teachers throughout the school year and we appreciate our teachers willingness to serve as mentors as well as to grow professionally through the experience. As well, we appreciate all that the student teachers contribute to the life and work of the school. Deirdre and Jenna your blog very effectively highlights the story of partner teacher and student teacher learning together.

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