A Classroom Residency, Times Four
The Urban Teacher Center provides aspiring educators with four different opportunities to teach students before they become teachers of record. What do those four opportunities look like?
- Summer 1: Co-teach or lead teach in a four-week summer school program.
- Semester 1:Work side-by-side with a host teacher for a full semester, taking increasing responsibility for instruction.
- Semester 2:Work with a host teacher in a new classroom, acting as lead teacher for two weeks in January and four full weeks in the spring.
- Summer 2: Lead instruction in a different, four-week summer program.
In addition to these whole-class experiences, UTC residents work closely with a small group of students throughout their second semester, using strategies from their practicum course to boost the skills of students who may be behind in literacy or math.
Over the course of the year, residents take on greater classroom responsibilities, for example, moving from leading warm-up exercises in September to taking over a period per day in the winter.
In addition, UTC requires four periods of formal "student teaching," of increasing length and intensity. Residents must complete three days of paired teaching with another resident in October, two days of solo instruction in November, two weeks of lead teaching in January, and four full weeks in the spring.
... and Increasing Skills
Residents' skills grow through coursework, clinical assignments, and practice. Early in the year, residents work on foundational skills, like planning lessons, setting up effective classroom management practices, and establishing a "teacher voice." By the end of the year, residents are focused on more sophisticated skills, like fostering academic conversations.
UTC Director of Curriculum and Professional Development Roxanne White explains the typical trajectory: "In the first semester of the residency, we see a lot of their work as emerging. They're doing a lot of work in getting to know students and what grade-level work looks and sounds like. By second semester, they can use all of this information and all of the approximations that they've made in first semester to begin to solidify some of those practices."
Much More than Your Average Practicum
Roxanne sees an enormous difference between UTC and common student teacher experiences: "Many student teaching experiences in teacher preparation programs are much shorter stints without the direct supervision and support that our folks receive from their clinical faculty."
UTC assigns every resident a coach, who works with them across all of their student teaching assignments, supporting, challenging, and providing valuable feedback. Coaches provide a minimum of 40 hours of support to each resident, including one-on-one lesson planning sessions, focused observations with on-the-spot feedback, and structured classroom observations that include a formal pre-conference and debrief.
Experienced Teachers, from Year One
"When our fellows become teachers of record for the first time, they have already had a year under their belts," Roxanne says. As a result, the vast majority of UTC's first-year teachers achieve student-learning gains on par with second-year teachers.
By the time they take on their own classrooms, UTC participants have experienced several groups of students, including a mix of grade levels. They are familiar with urban school environments, and have experience navigating the system. And perhaps most importantly, "They know what good teaching and learning looks like," says Roxanne. "They've had explicit instruction and guided field practice in enacting all of those important skills."
In short, UTC fellows are truly ready to teach.