On being with Student Teachers

On being with Student Teachers

…the very act of seeking recognition from significant others, or even depending passively on others for that recognition, may be an act of submission to those who are recognizing, thus creating a set of unequal relations that undercut the initial gesture toward egalitarianism. Just as I have pointed out earlier with regard to the political project of recognition, the very worst response to such a situation of unequal status between those recognizing and those recognized is for the one-recognized to go it alone. If there is reason to be mindful of recognitive encounters, there is also reason to go at the encounter in solidarity so that even the very act of positive recognition does not become an act of subordination.

Charles BinghamSchools of Recognition: Identity Politics and Classroom Practices

We are in our third week now with our student teachers. The nervous energy and expectations of just what this first stage of SFU’s PDP Program would be have ebbed and entered into a sense of comfort and purpose for student teachers and we faculty associates alike. We have found our groove, while the going is still early.

Arriving on campus today after a day away – and a few days spent in another classroom while our wing of the education building is under construction – I felt a sense of being at home. We resumed our daily morning acknowledgements of the unceded territories where we live and work, played an icebreaker game with our guest speaker, and were back at it.

But this too will be short lived.

The movement through the phases and stages of PDP is brisk: you are admitted, and briskly oriented into modules and classroom communities (barely two weeks into our work together, few of us can believe we haven’t worked closely together for months, at least). Next week, our first semester’s school experiences will begin to buttress what has thus far been preoccupied with theoretical learning, and an inquiry into ourselves as professionals.

None of what has transpired thus far has been a process occurring within student-teachers or facilitating faculty associates alone. My teaching partner, Donna, and I are each in our first pass at this work with aspiring teachers, and are finding our way and voices as we go. There is reflection and dissection of our work with younger pupils at every turn: questions about things taken for granted; lessons about professional dress, lessons gone awry, and how to proceed when the way seems lost.

“It’s kind of great that you’re both new,” our supporting faculty member, Charles Bingham, told us today. “Because neither of you has a foot in the way it’s been.”

It is all new; all something we have constructed together.

So far we have begun to explore elements of aboriginal and multicultural learning, touched on inclusivity and special education, inquiry learning, lesson planning, and the process of critical reflection that will guide not only this year of introductory practice, but the years of emerging pedagogy and professional identity that is to come. There has been much rich learning for the student teachers, as well as ourselves. And in three weeks our student teachers have each briskly developed a sense of  themselves within the context of the idea of teaching. We have discussed  our values of education, perceived problems with cultural reproduction in schools, and the limitations of institutional learning, as well as elements of successful community building and various classroom management strategies.

A new set of expectations has been established: the furtive glances exchanged around our room  on the first day have become more confident, thoughtful, and centred. What began as a nervous first position has expanded and been broadened by encounters with new experiences, and discussion with diverse others – classmates, faculty associates, guests and professors – into a sense of comfort, and confidence.

It is a rich progression to behold, these early steps taken so daringly in so short a time. And we are only now beginning: next week will mark these students’ return to public schools, and encounters with the filter of memory – perhaps of volunteering in a classroom not long ago, perhaps of further back, into their own experiences in elementary or secondary school. The same re-encounter will go for Donna and myself. And it will also be an encounter with the filter established in these recent weeks: an emergent view of education, societal reproduction, and what it means to teach and learn in this place.

We are on the verge, in so many words, of another leap into the unknown: the young norms of our brief time together will be disrupted, and brought into contact with the practice of physical classrooms and working teachers and students. We will return in another week and a half with new stories, breaches in our realms of expectation, and reflections on what these breaches might mean.

What a thing to be a part of.

One thought on “On being with Student Teachers

  1. How fun to read about our class. The leaping into the unknown with you as my partner has made it less scary, and dare I say, exciting and fun? Leaning into this new experience with another new person has allowed us to create something “ours”. When I read your blog, I thought, “Wow…we have done a lot in a short time.” And I know there’s much to be done. It will be great to see how the foundation we have worked to develop stands up to the real test of being in the schools. Looking forward to our continued journey with our amazing group.

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