The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 3, issue 7* November 6 , 2020

Growing, Nurturing, Developing, and Supporting

"The Acorn" is a newsletter for the cooperating teachers working with student teachers from the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. This publication is intended to help our cooperating teachers understand their roles and responsibilities as well as provide them with current research and best practice on working with student teachers.

Strategic Alignment

Every so often, school districts engage in strategic planning processes to re-envision their work and positions for and in their communities of learners. In these strategic plans, stakeholders are guided through series of activities—readings, reviews of data and policies, discussions, self and group reflections—that eventually lead to clearly articulated visions and missions, specific goals, and means by which each of these will be positioned, enacted, and evaluated. This process has large-scale implications for members of the school community. It also provides a compelling frame for educators to reflect on their own work and to think about the relationship of this process with the idea of “teacher as reflective decision-maker” (the core of the CSB/SJU education department).


A growing body of research and commentary has been focusing on the influence of teacher values and beliefs on teachers’ pedagogy, management, and relationships. Taking a sociological perspective to differentiate these, values are ideas or principles that hold importance or worth in determining what is good and just in society, while beliefs are assertions, opinions, and convictions we hold to be true. With those definitions in mind, we can “argue that beliefs play a central role in a teacher’s selection and prioritization of goals and actions” (Aguirre & Speer, 2000, p. 327) and that a teacher’s values and beliefs are embedded in our decisions and actions (Veugelers & Vedder, 2003, p. 379).


Throughout the student teaching experience this semester, the candidates from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University have been charged examine their values and beliefs across a number of teaching contexts. They have dug into their core values and beliefs in considering what shapes their classroom management philosophies and plans. They have been asked to look at how the Standards of Effective Practice (Minnesota’s beliefs about the qualities of effective teaching) and the academic standards in their content areas are being met in their planning and instruction, specifically in creating engaging and differentiated lessons. At the half-way point in their student teaching, student teachers were assigned to review their dispositions and practices in order to set goals for the remainder of the term. Soon, they will look to their futures in the job search and how they vision themselves as a licensed teacher. It is in this moment that we can pause, re-evaluate, and look at alignment.


In his text, What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things that Matter Most, Todd Whitaker posited that “the core beliefs that guide their work” (p. 119) is what makes the difference between good teachers and great teachers. Extending that, Aguirre and Speer contend that our values and beliefs “shape practice and orient knowledge” (p. 328) and “influence the construction of [teachers’] goals” (p. 330). Their research encourages teachers and researchers to further examine the complex relationship between values, beliefs, practices, decisions, and goals in order to improve teaching and learning and align all elements in the endeavor.


How do we do this becomes the question. How can educational professionals guide emerging educators in aligning all of these pieces? I’d like to suggest five avenues to do this: identification, access, conversation, documentation, and action. Walking down these avenues either individually or in dialogue can help educators to align all of the pieces and ensure they are working in concert with and to the benefit of each other.


Identification—

What are the values and beliefs the district/school (and any subpart relevant to my role) holds?

What are the values and beliefs I hold?

What informs those values? What data, actions, events, contexts or content leads to those values and beliefs?

Who established these values or beliefs?

Why do I buy in?


Access—

Where are the district/school values and beliefs published and who has access to them?

How are the values provided to me and my students?

Does everyone have access to each part of the district/school’s mission or vision?

How am I creating access to the vision or mission in my role?


Conversation—

How do my values and beliefs align with those of the district/school?

How do the actions (rules and policies included) of my district/school align with the values and beliefs?

How do my actions (rules, policies, and practices) align with my values and beliefs?

How am I communicating my values and beliefs, as well as the values and beliefs of the district/school, through my curriculum selections?

How am I communicating my values and beliefs, as well as the values and beliefs of the district/school, through my classroom practices?

Who can help me work on these ideas?


Documentation--

What documents do I have and/or do I produce that distribute the district/school values and beliefs?

What documents do I have and/or do I produce that distribute my values and beliefs?

How do I ensure my documents will align with my values and beliefs?

How do I share my values and beliefs with various stakeholders through email, letters, or other forms of communication?

How do I set goals that align my values and beliefs with my actions? Where do I keep track of these?


Action--

What do I do on a daily basis to ensure I am exhibiting and modeling the district/school values and beliefs?

What do I do on a daily basis to ensure I am exhibiting and modeling my values and beliefs?

How do I show the values and beliefs in what is within my classroom?

How do I show the values and beliefs in my interactions with students, colleagues, parents, and other stakeholders?

How do I check my goals to be sure I’m on track?

How do I handle feedback to be sure I’m on track?

What do I do if I am out of alignment?

Who do I go to for encouragement and support for my values and beliefs, goals and actions?


There is a lot to consider here, but these considerations remind us of the importance of being grounded in our values and beliefs but also open to the shifting that happens with experience and needs. It reminds us of our role as models of self-improvement through critical reflection. As Simon Borg (2018) stated in his article about teacher beliefs and practices, “Helping teachers recognize the gaps between their [values], beliefs and practices promotes the cognitive dissonance (a negative state fo psychological tension) that can stimulate teacher change.”


References:

Aguirre, J. & Speer, N.M. (2000). Examining the relationship between beliefs and goals in teacher practice. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 18(3), 327-356.

Borg, S. (2018). Teachers’ beliefs and classroom practices. The Routledge handbook of language awareness, 75-91.

Veugelers, W. & Vedder, P. (2003, Nov.). Values in teaching. Teachers and Teaching, 9(4), 377-389. Doi: 10.1080/1354060032000097262.

Whitaker, T. (2012). What great teachers do differently: seventeen things that matter most (2nd ed.). Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, Inc.

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Weeks 11 & 12 Documentation and Timelines

Please refer to the previous issues of The Acorn and the Student Teaching Handbook as needed.


For student teachers with 12 and 16-week placements--


Weeks 11-12

  • Conduct one formal observation
  • Allow the student teacher to take on a majority of the day (secondary candidates may have two preps)
  • Assist the student teacher in addressing areas needing improvement with continued informal observations and feedback
  • Refer to the student teacher's mid-term goals for mentorship


For student teachers with 12-week placements—

· Prepare materials for the final meeting: evaluations (see links below), letter of reference/recommendation, additional comments

· Work with the student teacher on a transition plan out of the classroom including a reduced load, addressing student work, grading, final days

· Participate in a final meeting with the student teacher and university supervisor


For student teachers with 8-week placements--


Week 3 of second placement

  • Work with the student teacher in planning, preparation of lessons and materials, monitoring student work.
  • Review the student teacher’s lesson plans (CSB/SJU approved lesson plans should be used for the first two-three weeks of teaching).
  • Co-teach in subjects/classes the student teacher isn’t leading
  • Conduct one formal observation
  • Elementary:
    • Allow the student teacher to solo teach at least ⅓ of the day.
  • Secondary:
    • Allow the student teacher to teach at least one section, build to two sections by the end of the week


Week 4 of second placement

  • Conduct informal observations of the lessons taught and provide feedback.
  • Co-teach in classes/subjects the student teacher is not leading
  • Elementary:
    • Allow the student teacher to teach ⅓ to ½ of the day
  • Secondary:
    • Teach a minimum two full sections (approximately 100 minutes).
    • Allow the student teacher to continue with initially selected course and all other sections of that course (up to two classes less than a full-time load, if the student teacher is prepared to do so)

CSB/SJU Forms

This link will connect you with the online forms required by our program to assess our student teachers' progress in student teaching. Cooperating teachers should be completing 4 observations of students whose placements are 12 weeks or longer. See the handbook for specific details.


By the end of week 10, all student teachers should have had a minimum of THREE total formal observations by the cooperating teacher(s).


At the end of placements, cooperating teachers should complete three additional forms: an evaluation of the university supervisor, a dispositional rating of the student teacher, and a final evaluation of the student teacher.


Please remember to use N/A (unable to observe) for any areas not evaluated during a particular observation.


Observation Form

Evaluation of University Supervisor

Student Teacher’s Dispositional Evaluation

Student Teaching Final Evaluation

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CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching