UH Cohort at MPI: Educating the Next Generation of Teachers - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

UH Cohort at MPI: Educating the Next Generation of Teachers

Posted on September 13, 2009

by Dr. Edna Hussey on September 13, 2009

We are proud and honored to work in partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Institute for Teacher Education by welcoming a cohort of teacher candidates (TC).  From 2009 to 2011, our faculty will serve as mentor teachers, educating the next generation of teachers during their field experience (observation and participation) and student teaching. Our faculty's mentoring is an invaluable service to the community.  We will receive a new cohort during each of the next three semesters.  In the fourth semester, teacher candidates will be assigned to a number of independent and public schools where they will complete their teacher preparation program by assuming more responsibility to plan and teach several content areas. When I was an undergraduate in the early 70's, the teacher education program included the usual coursework and just one semester of observation and one semester of student teaching!  This two-year early childhood and elementary program has been in place at UH-Manoa for over ten years, graduating teachers who are better prepared to enter the profession.
Although every faculty member has agreed to mentor a teacher candidate, we are beginning this school year with a cohort of seven.  The TCs work with mentor teachers in classrooms four days a week for a combination of observation and teaching during seven weeks interspersed through each semester. The TCs also attend our faculty meetings and lunchtime study group sessions so that they can more fully experience a teacher's daily routine and responsibilities.  They follow students into the specialists' classes where they're able to observe instructional strategies used in physical education, music, art, and character education. We will also be having one to two teacher candidates from Chaminade University working with a faculty member.  During the weeks the teacher candidates are not observing our teachers, they are attending education courses on the UH campus. Some of you may have read on the weblog about a teacher candidate in your child's classroom.  We are grateful to our faculty for sharing their professional expertise, working side-by-side with the university professors to prepare teacher candidates for Hawaii's children and classrooms. 

In my previous posting, I explained our commitment to improving teaching and learning at MPI, guided by our vision of "preparing students to make a difference in the world by embracing change with creativity, collaboration, critical thought, and global awareness, guided by moral and ethical values." Our participation in Schools of the Future enables us to collaborate with other schools equally inspired to change not just methods of instruction, but more importantly, to change attitudes and understanding about what it means to educate children in the 21st century.  In the preschool and elementary, our plan is to deepen our inquiry approaches so that students are thinking critically and making global connections.  

Last year, the teachers and I made two important decisions. The first was to give inquiry prominence in our assessment rather than embedding the learning process in reading and writing, two literacy skills necessary for inquiry. Over the past year, we have created an inquiry performance continuum that identifies the learning process occurring over three phases: initiating experiences, constructing meaning,and communicating meaning. 

At the beginning of an inquiry process, we assess the child's ability to draw on prior knowledge, personal experiences, observations, and new information.  The student asks questions or generates hypotheses, which then frames the inquiry. "Constructing meaning" has everything to do with comprehension or making meaning from a variety of resources (e.g., trade books, magazines, internet, site visits) and in a variety of ways (e.g., writing, speaking, drawing, through mathematics, movement). Once something is learned, the student communicates understanding through various "languages" -- writing, speaking, art, music, drama, technology, etc. We realize that inquiry-based learning often occurs with others, so students work in small groups to tangle with information or to problem solve together.  There are also opportunities for independent inquiries, but more often students are working together in teams. 

The faculty teaching kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade met in two groups throughout the year to generate descriptions of what they observed students doing during inquiry projects. They identified skills and abilities typical of their respective grade levels as well as set expectations to challenge growth. Thus, our second decision was to create a continuum of developmentally appropriate behaviors categorized as "beginning," "exploring", and "expanding" for kindergarten through second grade and "exploring," "established," and "extending" for grades three through five. Our goal was to create a sense of continuity as students move through the grade levels.  The same inquiry performance continua will be used over three years, K-2 and 3-5, to address the notion that some learners can demonstrate growth beyond a grade level.  

Since we are rolling out a new continua this year, a parent session will be scheduled in November so that you can be better prepared to understand your child's cognitive growth on the continua when you meet with teachers during the December conferences. We will have student examples to illustrate the descriptors on the inquiry performance continua.  

Plans for Moon Over Manoa, one of MPI's major fundraising events, are underway. You may drop off your items for class baskets in the morning autoline, September 16-17.  The event is September 26, 5:30pm, at the Sheraton Waikiki.  

Please be advised that the Maile Way exit will be closed at 2:00pm this Friday only (due to early dismissal in the middle school and high school).  Please exit the campus through the main entrance on Kaala.  

Students will gather in the dining room this Thursday, September 17, for an assembly. Assembly days are also Choice Days or Free Dress Days.  Review the guidelines for free dress in the handbook.  

Make sure you've checked your child's classroom blog, and if you have time, any other blog posted on the preschool/elementary page. Amazing learning every day!

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey