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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 4, January/February 2006

Teachers' tips: Sponsor teaching

by Robert Whiteley

Being a sponsor teacher for new teachers is a critically important piece of work teachers engage in. Not only is supervising student teachers a "duty" as included in the School Act, teachers have a moral responsibility to mentor, assist, and report on the suitability of prospective members of the profession. Section 47 of the Members’ Guide to the BCTF provides sponsor teachers with Federation policy with respect to working with student teachers and university faculty/ supervisors.

Working with pre-service teachers provides the opportunity for a sponsor teacher to reflect on one’s own practice, to discuss emerging and established educational theories, to model effective teaching strategies, and to become a mentor and guide.

The first question one must ask prior to accepting a student teacher is why. Why are you accepting a student? What benefits may accrue to the student teacher, your students, you, the school, and public education? Are you taking a student because your principal asked you to, others recommended you, or for professional development reasons?

Teaching and learning is all about the kind and quality of relationship established between teachers, students, parents, administrators, and other educational support personnel. This is also true of the student/teacher/sponsor relationship. Research clearly informs us that the relationship between the sponsor teacher and the student teacher is one of the most critical determinates of a successful practicum experience.

Your relationship with university personnel must be collegial and collaborative. One major complaint of student teachers is that sponsor teachers and supervisors interpret documentation differently. It is very important that all documents pertaining to the practicum experience be read, questions prepared, and clarification sought. Respectful communication is key.

Establish boundaries with the student—both professional and personal. Maintaining professional objectivity is key, as it is difficult to criticize a friend. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with the student teachers. In public schools, student teachers are bound by the BCTF Code of Ethics. Remember, confidentiality is important but seeking advice from colleagues or the university supervisor is always helpful.

Robert Whiteley is on leave from the Nanaimo School District.

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