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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 6, April 2007

Why be a sponsor teacher?

As most teachers know, the practicum is the most important part of a student-teacher education program. Sponsor teachers received the highest ratings in terms of positive models and practicum support.

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 vast majority of experiences are positive. Sponsor teachers perceive the experience to be an opportunity for enjoyment and professional growth for themselves. Here are some of their comments:

"Hosting a student teacher is an amazing experience. The first time I shared my classroom with a student teacher, I was somewhat apprehensive. Teachers are, after all, very protective of their students, their routines, their resources, and their classrooms. However, I soon discovered that I was learning as much from my student teacher as she was from me, and that by sharing my space, I was gaining more than I was giving. I loved having someone to share the daily experiences that arise when dealing with 20+ eight-year-olds—the funny things kids say, the behavior challenges that need a second opinion, and especially the extra teacher to help students who struggle academically.

"I also discovered that having a student teacher made me question my educational practices in a very positive way. I had to ask myself questions like: Why do I teach spelling the way I do? How can I make guided reading sessions the most efficient and beneficial? Is silent reading time meaningful for the kids? Am I saying more positive and empowering comments in a day than negative remarks? How effective am I at asking higher-level questions?

"Hosting student teachers has been the best form of professional development I’ve had. Watching young teachers develop into professionals and colleagues is so rewarding and exciting. I highly recommend trying it for yourself—you won’t regret it!"
– Suzanne Gravel, Grade 3 teacher, Alexander Elementary School, Abbotsford

"I believe I have learned as much about the practice of teaching and my own practice as I have passed on to my student teacher. Being with a student teacher every day becomes an opportunity to reflect, most often on why I do things the way I do. Through this reflection I have found my own practice continue to improve long after the student teacher has left my classroom. I have also learned that it is enjoyable to have another adult in the room, to talk to and discuss teaching and educational practice with. We are so often closed behind our classroom door; the regular opportunity to have discussions about our practice is enjoyable. I have had a couple of student teachers during the time I was involved in Masters and Ed D work. I was able to both apply and discuss the theoretical aspects that I learned in my course work to my experience in the classroom and with student teachers."
– Bruce McCloy, English teacher, New Westminster Secondary School

"I have learned several things, the biggest is that my way may not be the only or best way of doing things. I had the privilege of working with a young lady a while back whose style was quite different than mine. At first I wanted to explain to her how to make her lesson look more like mine, but when I gave her the opportunity to show me, the final outcome of her lesson was very good. Although the route she took was not one I would have taken, she was successful. I have also realized that there are many things that I do well, and I enjoy sharing that and helping another to hopefully make a good entrance into our profession."
– Debbie Piggin, Grade 6 teacher, RL Clemitson Elementary, Kamloops

"Their learning is our learning. We have the opportunity to rest for a moment and review our teaching methods, to organize and clean, to look at old resources and lessons that have been shoved to the back of the file cabinet. This is also a time for improvement. As teachers, we know, learning is everyday, everyway, and everywhere. Student teachers bring new ideas and twists on old ones. They also bring to the classroom another expert, the faculty advisor who supports both the student and the sponsoring teacher. The moments are golden for those of us who can share our teaching ideologies with a peer. Many great relationships start and continue with sponsoring a student teacher. When they leave the classroom, we have also gone through a transformation of a kind. Our classrooms as well as ourselves benefit from the experience."
– Kathy Manning, visual art teacher, Earl Marriott Secondary School, Surrey

"I feel it is important to provide a safe place for teacher candidates to experiment with the various teaching styles and try to implement strategies knowing they have the support of a co-operating teacher who will not judge them on any errors that may occur when they attempt something new. Teacher candidates need honest feedback on their performance. This will enable them to become more effective teachers, in a more timely fashion, than if we allowed them to realize their mistakes on their own. Having a teacher candidate in full immersion frees up my time to allow me to work with students who need extra assistance. It also allows me to take on projects within my school that benefit teachers and students."
– Joanne Hapke, Grade 4 teacher, Westwood Elementary School, Prince George

"I have been doing this for many years and I enjoy it immensely. I find that student teachers bring a lot of enthusiasm to practicum and a genuine desire to learn. My job as a teacher is to help students (no matter the age) to learn and get better at what they do. I also feel that I have lots to offer to a student teacher, to help fill up their own toolbox of teaching materials. I had great sponsor teachers when I was going through the process and I feel that this is one of many ways that I can give back to the profession."
– Gary Maitland, PE teacher, Nanaimo District Secondary School

– Pierre Blouin

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