Serving the Greater Good - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

Serving the Greater Good

Posted on September 5, 2011

by Dr. Edna Hussey on September 5, 2011

bounce.jpgHot spots on the elementary campus this past Saturday at the Welcome BBQ --
the shave ice corner where families stood in line for thirst-quenching cones of rainbow flavors, the Bouncy House (need I say more?), the dining room with tables laden with grilled hamburgers, hotdogs, and other picnic fare, and the courtyard where children and parents played relay games and the all-time favorite "tug of war." Later that afternoon I simply had to grin when I saw several parents in a tug-of war of a different kind with their children who were reluctant to go home after an afternoon of honest-to-goodness fun. High-fives for co-chairs Susan Donlon and Venice Hochman and the fifth grade parents and students who were primarily responsible for the annual event. And talk about a summer-kissed day!

We are honored to continue a special partnership with the University of Hawaii to help prepare another cohort of teacher candidates (TCs). (The University Cohort Program is also in other public and private schools.) Eight university juniors are beginning their teacher education program in MPI elementary classrooms. Over the next three semesters, several teachers will mentor a new group of TCs. These TCs are required to conduct classroom observations in three different schools each semester, public and private, and at different grade levels. (Note: Although individual teachers have always welcomed a TC over many years, this will be the second two-year term commitment to UH to accept a cohort.)

The TCs are hardly sitting back! We regard the teacher candidates as professionals. Each Monday and Tuesday throughout the Fall semester, they arrive in school by 7:15am and report to mentors' classrooms. The mentors are Kindergarten teachers Jen Matsumoto and assistant Laura Adams, Kelley Hitomi and assistant Noe Vitarelli; multiage first and second grade teachers Sarah Field and Donna Revard; and multiage third and fourth grade teachers Arlene Holzman, Lucy Sanders, Torry Montes, and Tiffany Byrne. We expect the TCs to take an active role in their learning, so they confer with mentors on curricular plans and instructional strategies. You'll see them working with small groups of students or one-on-one, monitoring students, or even assisting the specialists in music, art, physical education, and character education. They also participate in our faculty inquiry lunch meetings where they gain an inside view of how the faculty think, question, ponder, disagree, and collaborate on the materials we read and analyze together. They are required to design and teach two mini-lessons, with guidance from their mentors. You may even see them in the December parent-student-teacher conferences.

Come Spring 2012, there will be a new cohort of TCs on campus. And again in Fall 2012, another new cohort. By Spring 2013, some of the TCs who've already been on campus may return as student teachers, ready to take on increasing responsibilities such as writing lesson plans concurrent with units of study already underway in the classroom, teaching the lessons, and determining appropriate methods of student assessment. By Spring 2013, these TCs will have been in diverse different classrooms and grade levels and learned different teaching strategies. This is also the semester when mentor teachers, who will have provided abundant guidance, step away from the classroom for a period of one to two weeks so that the student teachers are fully responsible for their students' learning.

This mentor-apprentice relationship has been mutually beneficial for our MPI faculty and the UH teacher candidates, which is why so many of our teachers willingly volunteer. They have assistants who are serious about learning the craft of teaching and who provide worthwhile feedback about the effectiveness of a teaching strategy. The TC is able to work with small groups of students to provide more intensive attention and support. The teachers also tell me that they learn about new computer applications from their TCs.

Though participating faculty receive a nominal stipend for their efforts, there is a greater good. Our teachers realize that they have a responsibility to the larger community by helping to prepare a new generation of teachers who are not only competent in terms of skills and content knowledge. We believe in our philosophical view of teaching and learning at Mid-Pacific and intend that these values and dispositions are shared with emerging teachers in classrooms across Hawaii. We want them to learn that teaching is an inquiry -- understanding how our students think, setting up conditions that support learning, creating a culture of thinking, and taking an active role in decision-making processes as a school. Foremost, it is honoring our image of each child. This is our commitment to the community beyond MPI, and we are honored to undertake this role as teaching professionals.

Our children at MPI and beyond our gates benefit from our investment in teaching and learning. I am especially grateful to our MPI mentor teachers.

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey