I spent a few years teaching in the Initial Teacher Education Program (ITEP) at OISE/UT. It never failed that, despite the almost universal sense of anxiety that preceded students’ first practicuum experiences, there was always a resounding feeling of loss on the part of the candidates when they returned to the University to carry on with their coursework.
During the two- or three-week in-class experience they had forged relationships and connections with staff members, with students and with the community. Most returned having left a little of their teaching selves behind. As instructor, I was more than a little offended when candidates returned the first couple of times and openly declared their desire to be back in their school, claiming that they had learned so much more there than they were learning in the psychology or methods courses at the University. As my three year assignment progressed, however, I learned to expect the response and prepare activities designed to acknowledge and respond to the very emotional bond that was created while out in the field.
Since returning from the ITEP experience, I have hosted many teacher candidates from a variety of Universities in my own classroom and I have come to understand that the desire to be in schools during initial preparation is almost universal. The sense that the on-the-ground experience, in all of its contextual glory, is somehow more valuable than the workshops, seminars and lectures held back in the academy is worth noting and worth talking about.
I know that there are some teacher education faculties that are moving towards centering their programs in elementary and secondary school communities. Some are motivated by space availability and the ability to offer prospective students a site closer to their home. Others may actually be trying to create a more “nested” approach to program, with candidates actually taking classes and completing their practicum requirements at the same school site.
So a couple of questions to start the conversation.
What is the current relationship between the Field and Faculties of Education across Canada? What is happening now? Is it satisfactory, or could a shift in that practice make for a richer, more contextualized initial teacher preparation program? What essential aspects of teacher education need to remain grounded in the University setting? Could schools effectively replace the academy as the hub of the Initial Teacher Preparation Program?
What shift in attitudes would be necessary on the part of the University in order to create more of a field-based approach to teacher education? On the part of School Districts?
I think that there is room for some lively discussion here. Care to wade into the waters a little?