Persistently Reaching Out
Since November of 2017, the director of educator preparation and I had been working to find spring placements for my five secondary English education candidates in one school setting.
In previous semesters, candidates had been scattered across area school districts that were demographically, culturally, and often pedagogically different from one another. With all five candidates in one place, we could focus on conversations about the common school culture while investigating best instructional practices.
The university director stated the following in her January 9, 2018 email to the school principal:
We have a time-sensitive issue of trying to find clinical placement for 5 English teacher candidates for this spring and hope that you can assist. The placement that was scheduled unfortunately fell through on yesterday due to teachers leaving that district and or changing positions. We really need your help!
She explained the field experience hours and objectives, as well as possibilities for collaboration.
The principal asked that I contact the division leader for ELA and Social Sciences. My introductory email on January 9 said to the division leader:
The principal forwarded your contact information regarding mentor teachers for my secondary English education teacher candidates. I am beyond excited that you school can accommodate all five of my candidates for observations this spring.
I wanted my candidates to be with mentor teachers at least one day per week for fourteen weeks to complete some of their 40 field experience hours. For the remainder, they could schedule additional time on other days or attend school academic functions. At the end of their field experience, they would teach a lesson that would be observed by a university supervisor.
Timing Is Everything
The high school division leader said the email came to him at the right time – there was a small window of opportunity in early January that had him in his office planning schedules and not in meetings or involved in other duties (teacher observations, coaching).
In our first phone conversation on January 10, we discussed my request for secondary education candidates to be placed with five mentor English teachers. He said:
“I have five teachers. They’ll do it.”
And, indeed, before our phone conversation he had already identified and communicated with the English teachers for the placements.
The next few minutes of the conversation consisted of the required 40 hours and field experience objectives. We discussed the candidates and their involvement in the classroom, as well as a few views on teacher preparation.
Sharing a Vision
In the midst of such a productive conversation, I decided to share my future goal for the methods course:
“My dream is to have a classroom in a high school.”
Without skipping a beat, he replied:
“I have a classroom.”
The next few days consisted of emails and face-to-face meetings to figure out the logistics of having a methods classroom located in the high school. By January 12, John had placed candidates with mentor teachers, scheduled the classroom, arranged wifi connectivity, and planned an orientation for our first day at the high school.
The timing of an email on January 9, 2018 and sharing a vision helped launch the district and university partnership that has gained traction for over a year. I hope to hear from others about their experiences with partnership planning and implementation in teacher education.