Posted on January 17, 2011
We often refer to the learning relationship in a multiage setting as "mentor and apprentice," the notion that the more experienced individual (mentor) demonstrates the behaviors, skills, and attitude that the less experienced (apprentice) should learn. The mentorship model is prevalent in a variety of work environments -- the educational setting, business workplace, medical institutions, political arena, the world of sports, and in the home. I often tell parents in admission meetings that in the family context, younger siblings are ready and apt learners on the heels of older siblings. Think of how much more quickly the second child picks up language or social skills, thanks (or not!) to the behaviors modeled by older brother or sister. In the education arena, developing skilled and talented teaching professionals is made possible because of mentorship programs in participating schools in Hawaii and across the globe. Since our pre-MPI years as an elementary school, we have provided many opportunities for aspiring teachers to learn at the side of our own qualified and expert faculty. You should be proud parents to know that your children have had a significant role in helping to prepare student teachers to enter the education profession!
Although we have invited student teachers from the University of Hawaii and Chaminade University into our classrooms for nearly twenty years, we formalized our partnership with UH-Manoa's College of Education by committing two-year periods at a time for teacher candidates to observe our elementary classrooms and to assist teachers in the daily program. Last year, we accepted a cohort assigned to individual teachers who volunteered to mentor a teacher candidate. So that these candidates are better prepared to work in public and private settings, they spend at least two semesters working in public school. By the third semester, each teacher candidate requests to work in the school where he or she will eventually complete the 4th and final semester of teacher preparation.
We are now in that 4th and final semester, and we welcome back "old" friends to MPI elementary who have transitioned from teacher candidates to student teachers. The following MPI faculty are currently mentoring a student teacher: Kindergarten teachers Jen Matsumoto and Kelley Hitomi, multiage first and second grade teachers Sarah Field and Donna Revard, and multiage third and fourth grade teachers Torry Montes and Tiffany Byrne. (In previous semesters, we have had a cohort of nine teacher candidates, but not all continue in pursuing a teaching degree.) These student teachers have a rigorous and rewarding semester ahead. In addition to UH seminars and some course reading, they comply in all other ways to the same expectations for MPI faculty. They report to work by 7:15am and stay the full day (usually until 3:00pm), attend all faculty meetings, participate in special programs such as Grandparents' Day, teach lessons that must correspond to the mentor teacher's overall instructional plans, assess and evaluate students, and work alongside the mentor teacher most of the semester.
During the three-week solo teaching period, the student teacher is observed by the university coordinator and the mentor teacher. Solo teaching will occur prior to spring break. Since these student teachers have been well prepared through course work and experiences in other schools (including ours), your children are quite fortunate to have the benefit of another capable teacher in the classroom. And our students are demonstrating daily the amazing learning possibilities at MPI elementary, many situations that these student teachers have read about in their coursework -- inquiry learning, collaboration, problem-solving, writing process, literature circles, etc.
We also have a cohort of five preschool teachers through West Oahu's early learning teacher program who specifically asked to spend their semester in our Reggio-inspired preschool. These individuals are already qualified and experienced teachers in Head Start programs across O`ahu, some with over twenty years of classroom experience. Each day there are one to two additional teachers being mentored by Leslie Gleim and her assistant teachers. Since there are many occasions during the day when children from both classrooms are playing together, these "student" teachers are learning how to document during these outside work times. Our preschool children also have the benefit of additional teachers at their side.
The faculty and I are honored to be asked to mentor Hawaii's new teaching professionals. The relationship is mutually beneficial. The faculty mentors learn new strategies from their student teachers, and the collegial conversation between mentor and apprentice is always an opportunity for our own teachers' professional development. We're eager to see where and how the mana`o we share with our colleagues will take them in their future teaching.
Before I close, I hope you've added to your child's understanding about Martin Luther King, Jr. and why we observe this special day in his honor. Everything that you and I do as parent- and teacher-mentors impresses upon our children the need for civility and respect towards one another. Imagining a peaceful world should not just be a dream.
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey