Students in W&M’s teacher education programs learn a lot over the course of their year-long studies to become a teacher — and the current teachers who welcome these students into their classrooms for observation, mentorship and student-teaching are a crucial element of that training. To help the School of Education’s newest incoming student teachers acclimate to their surroundings and make a strong, early connection with their teacher mentors, the two groups gathered for an orientation and reception on Monday, Aug. 28.
The reception, which involved team-building activities and provided information about what to expect over the coming year, was a chance for students to get to know their cooperating teachers before the start of the school year. The cooperating teachers mentor students during the fall semester practicum as students learn the ins and outs of teaching, then supervise the students for 10 weeks of student teaching in the spring.
Teachers from both elementary and secondary levels were well-represented from six school divisions and thirty different schools, and students came from the Elementary, Secondary, and Special Education programs. In total, around 170 people participated in the reception, which promises to grow larger in the future.
Student teachers had positive things to say about the event. “It helped me enormously to get a glimpse of my coordinating teacher’s personality and approach to this partnership. Many thanks to you all!” said one. “It was great to have the introductions in a casual setting and to have so many people there to build enthusiasm about the upcoming semester,” shared another.
Similarly, the cooperating teachers also were enthusiastic about what promises to be an annual tradition for the program. “I liked being able to meet and talk with my intern before the first day of school. When I meet my intern on the first day of school, it always seems rushed and I feel bad that I can't give him or her my undivided attention for a good conversation. Please continue to do this!” said a cooperating teacher. Another offered, “It was great to meet my student teacher and make connections before the first day of school. Some of the scenarios and tasks fostered conversation, and they encouraged a degree of comfort that would not have been there on the first day of school.”
When asked why it was important for students and teachers to connect at the beginning of the year, Associate Dean of Teacher Education and Community Engagement Denise Johnson said, “In the past, our student interns have met their cooperating teachers on the first day of public school, which, as you might imagine, is very hectic. Based on feedback from several focus groups, we believed that if students and cooperating teachers met prior to the first day of public school, then opportunities for creating shared understandings of expectations and building the basis for open communication could be better established.”
“Good communication begins with connection,” she continued. “The orientation was designed to provide the opportunity to create this critical connection that will hopefully continue to develop and provide an important foundation for continued personal and professional growth across the year.”