By Linda Barrington
JEA Mentoring Committee co-chair

Of the many things teacher education programs should offer, I think these three are the most important:  a wide range of rich experiences that integrate technology and creative media within lessons, regular reflection on classroom experiences, and the opportunity for engaging in professional development, both individually and as members of collaborative professional communities.

Provide experiences that integrate technology and creative media within lessons

Some schools and classrooms are better equipped than others, but at the very least, teachers and students should have access to computers, appropriate software and the Internet.

Teachers can teach and students can learn without any technology, but it’s harder. Technology is an integral tool in just about every lesson, from enabling research at websites to engaging students through video and interactive whiteboards.

Students can participate in whole class revision of writing, demonstrate their understanding through multi-media presentations, and synthesize information by creating new media as application of new knowledge. The greatest benefits are in increasing student participation and motivation.

Encourage pre-service and new teachers to regularly reflect on classroom experiences

Reflection is integral to understanding why a teacher has succeeded or failed to meet planned expectations.

Reflection helps to take the time to do this on a regular basis, especially when a lesson doesn’t turn out as expected. Ask your cooperating teacher or mentor to help you go through this process.

First, write down what happened, without interpretation or judgment, just what happened. Then figure out why it happened, which isn’t all that easy.  Then ask yourself what this means. It won’t mean just one thing but probably several things. This will help you understand the next step: decide how your practice might change now that you know all this.

Engage in professional development

Professional development is another way of saying, “Learning never ends.”

We need to develop a culture of collaborative growth within our schools. This is what professional learning communities are all about and why they are so wildly successful when done well. Both beginners and veterans work together to become better teachers, assessors, models and human beings. Mentors need to invite new teachers to join them in the continuing journey of professional growth.

Linda Barrington is co-chair of the JEA Mentoring Committee, helps with mentor training, and takes care of finances and marketing. She has taught English Methods to pre-service teachers for 16 years and supervises student teachers at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wis.