Current Education Law
In December 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA, to replace the No Child Left Behind law that was passed in 2002(1). Since that time, states have been working to create their own ESSA plans that follow the guidelines set forth by the new federal law. Here in Tennessee, Commissioner McQueen and the Department of Education have created a plan to build on the current education work in the state. According to the plan, there are five opportunities that the state will focus on. “Opportunity Four: Focus on Strengthening and Supporting Educators” deals with continuing education for current teachers and cultivating new teaching talent(2). To help support future teacher training, veteran teachers need to open their classrooms to residency students and student teachers.
Future teachers participating in residency or student-teaching programs need to see the benefit of building relationships with other teachers in a school. Teachers can no longer be isolated in their classrooms creating all their own materials and speaking to no one. Teaching should be about sharing ideas, successes, failures, and innovations. Mentor teachers need to model positive relationships with others in a school setting. Hopefully, this will encourage graduates to seek out other teachers in their new schools and build those relationships for themselves.
Student teachers also need to see how veteran teachers build relationships and interact with their students. First-year teachers often struggle with classroom management, which is directly tied to student-teacher relationships. Mutual respect between students and teachers is built over time, starting on the first day of school. However, many residency and student-teaching programs do not start out the school year in their classroom placements. Hopefully, colleges and universities that partner with school districts will start residencies earlier in the school year in the future. Student teachers can still observe positive relationships throughout the school year but would benefit greatly from seeing those as they evolve from the start.
Most college students have no trouble using technology for themselves, but learning to teach with technology is a skill. Mentor teachers who have access to technology in their classrooms should model its use and explain the purpose behind the technology usage. What websites do you like to use with your students? How do you use Google Drive? What technology is the most useful for each subject area?
Also, student teachers need to learn how to monitor students who are using electronic devices in class such as laptops, Chromebooks, or their own cell phones. Many schools have certain sites blocked, but students are always finding ways to access them anyway. This will help prepare student teachers for their own classrooms and the problems that will eventually arise.
According to the ESSA Plan, Tennessee’s goals for education are that “districts and schools in Tennessee will exemplify excellence and equity such that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark upon their chosen path in life. Our work is focused on preparing students such that they have choice and quality options after graduation. This is how Tennessee succeeds.”(2) One way that Tennessee teachers can help support this vision is by ensuring that residency students and student teachers are fully prepared for their own classrooms after graduation.
Jessica has taught middle school math in Putnam County Schools for the past 7 years. She first worked at Avery Trace Middle School teaching 6th, 7th and 8th grade math. Then she moved to Cornerstone Middle School, which is now Upperman Middle School, to teach 5th grade math. During this time, she has served as the 5th grade team leader, mentor teacher, 2015 school level Teacher of the Year, digital transition team member and mathematics instructional specialist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies – Middle School and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, both from Tennessee Tech University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.