When we place teacher candidates into the field, whether for an early field experience or for their student teaching experience, we do so knowing that the teacher candidate is going to look toward the host teacher for guidance and expertise. Because of this relationship, it is critical to select as high a quality of host teacher as possible. In the literature, there are myriad examples of how to structure the field experience, to include selection of the host teacher. Freeman (2009-2010) provides Strategies for Success in the placement process. These strategies provide a starting point for working with a school to provide students with as strong a role model as possible.
Strategies for Success
One of Freeman’s first recommendations is to have a committee comprised of faculty, student, and public school representation. This committee needs to meet on an annual basis for collaboration to examine the relationship and to explore best practices in field experience programs. A committee such as this could coordinate the selection of highly-qualified host teachers. Having an active committee will also help to build the cohesive relationship between the university and public schools necessary for quality placements.
Once a placement is made, clear communication between the university and the host teacher must be maintained. Inform the host teacher of expectations for both the host teacher and the teacher candidate. As often as possible, meet with the host teacher ahead of time to establish communication lines.
Another strategy for providing quality placements is to have training for the host teachers. In this training, discuss expectations of the host teacher and the teacher candidate, distribute forms and give explanations of why and how they are to be completed, and allow time for questions and discussion. Present the framework from which the teacher candidates have been taught.
Freeman also suggests offering incentives to good teachers for participation. These incentives could be a certificate of value from the University equivalent to the cost of one graduate hour. This certificate would need to be redeemed within 3 years of its issue. A second alternative is to offer compensation. Freeman recommends compensation of $100.00. A third alternative is to offer a ticket value of $125 for a performing arts center event which must be redeemed within one year of being issued. These amounts would, of course, vary according to departmental budgets.
Things to Consider
It is essential to make the placement intentionally rather than haphazardly. Getting to know public school personnel and recognizing their efforts will help to build strong university/public school collaboration. In this age of teacher evaluations, a principal will have more concrete evidence of high-quality teacher. Take advantage of this knowledge by communicating clearly and frequently with the principal. Ask for recommendations of teachers. After all the work of instructing teacher candidates, why risk losing a quality, potential teacher because of a poor-quality host teacher?
Freeman, G. (2009-2010). Strategies for successful early field experiences in a teacher education program. SRATE Journal 19(1), p. 15 – 21.
Susan G. Thompson