Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why were they placed in pairs?

I wrote before how GVSU's Teacher Assisting semester is a fairly unique program. The Mathematics Department has gone one step further by placing pairs of Teacher Assistants [TAs] in classrooms (or as a cohort at a school). We have found that this approach has supported the TAs in numerous ways. The biggest benefit is that it helps them to break from the culture of isolation so prevalent in American teaching.

Today, the TAs did their final presentations. I wanted to try out a new app, MindNote, and created a concept map showing the connections made as they reflected on their experiences this semester. As you can see below, collaboration was important to many of the TAs.

What was interesting was the number of TAs who came into the semester skeptical of being placed with a peer. They thought that their experience would be diluted if they had to share a classroom. Instead, they found it a powerful and positive opportunity to improve their practice.

In a recent speech, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said we need to do more to attract great talent to teaching. Listening to the passion and commitment of these future teachers, I would respond that we do not need better teachers; we need to support better teaching. The best and the brightest are already here.

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