Posted on January 22, 2012
This is an especially busy semester at the elementary with aspiring college students majoring in education spending some time in our teachers' classrooms. For the past two years, students in the University of Hawaii's teacher education program have worked with their mentor teachers (our elementary faculty). Each semester of three semesters we have a new cohort of teaching candidates. In the fourth semester, another cohort settles into new roles as student teachers doing precisely what their title suggests -- students actually teaching classes over a period of time, always under the guidance of the mentor teacher and a university faculty supervisor. This spring we welcome eight University of Hawaii teacher candidates who are in our classes all day every Monday and Tuesday. We also have two UH student teachers who hope to receive their teacher certifications and teaching degrees in May. Another classroom teacher is mentoring a student teacher from the University of Reno, Nevada. Even the preschool faculty will have their share of teacher candidates from UH West O`ahu College this semester.
When these teaching candidates and student teachers step on campus, we regard them as faculty. They participate in faculty meetings, supervise students, and will occasionally post a blog on the MPI website. They also join the faculty study groups during lunch. In addition to these aspiring teachers, we have had colleagues from other schools visit our classrooms, sometimes spending the entire day with us. What are they most interested in observing?
• One of the most popular requests is visiting our Reggio-Emilia inspired preschool. Our colleagues are curious about inquiry project work, how projects are determined, and how documentation is used. We often invite them to attend the preschool faculty meetings on Fridays so that they have an inside view of how these meetings are often opportunities for professional development.
• Many visiting teachers observe the multiage classrooms. They wonder how it's possible to teach two different grade levels at the same time (this is also true of our multiage preschool classrooms). After an hour or more in a multiage classroom, our colleagues can't differentiate the younger from the older students.
• Inquiry is another aspect of our program that our colleagues ask about. They observe how students might pose questions, analyze texts, or form deeper inquiry questions. They might also listen in on discussions among students as they research information from websites or books.
• Our colleagues usually ask questions about student assessment, so we share the different performance continua with them and explain how and why the continua were developed. Our most recent visitors from a Maui independent school were impressed with our digital portfolio system.
In early February, we will be receiving six teachers from Korea who'll be spending three days with us in various classrooms. (I'll share information about their visit in a future blog.) While we are always honored that our colleagues in other schools choose to visit MPI and want to learn as much as they can from our teachers, the faculty and I share the sense that we have a responsibility to the education community to offer what we have learned and continue to learn about the nature of learning and promising practices, such as making our students' thinking visible so that we can determine their level of understanding.
We are looking forward to the arrival of the lion dancers who will help us celebrate the New Year of the Dragon on Monday morning, January 23. I'm sure your children will be sharing with you the highlights of this cultural event at MPI preschool and elementary. Here's to a most auspicious, successful year for our families! Gung Hee Fat Choy!
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey