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Student teaching experience in W.Va. about to get longer

By JIM ROSS

The State Journal

HUNTINGTON, W>Va.  — Marshall University students who want to become teachers will spend more time in the classroom before they earn their degrees.

“It won’t be easy, and it won’t be tomorrow, but we will be able to do it,” said Teresa Eagle, dean of the College of Education and Professional Development at Marshall.

The same is true at West Virginia University Parkersburg. The school does not yet use what is being called the clinical approach to student teaching, “but we have already taken the first steps towards it,” said David L. Lancaster, professor and chair of education at WVU-P.

Eagle and Leonard gave their thoughts on teacher preparation as the West Virginia Board of Education wrapped up its two-day monthly meeting on the Marshall University campus Wednesday.

Eagle said the changes to student teaching are at their early stages at Marshall.

“Change is hard, and institutions change at about the same rate as glaciers,” she said.

The change from the student teaching model to the clinical model is mainly a philosophical one that aims to give education students more time in the schools where they will do their student teaching, she said.

“It’s really an increased number of hours being out there. It’s getting your feet into everything more quickly, getting everything more intrinsically a part of you. One of the things we’re hoping with the extended amount of time a student spends out there is a student will have more of the experiences that will help them when they go on the job for the first time with their own classroom. They’re a little more comfortable; they’re a little more effective.”

What used to be a semester-long student teaching assignment in the final year of college will involve several days in the first semester, too, Eagle said.

“We’re still in the early planning stages of this. The first semester of the year, they’re out part-time in the schools, they’re working with the teachers, they’re learning the school itself, so that the second semester, when they come there every day, that they already know the system. They already know the school. It’s already their school as opposed to just their student teaching experience.”

Details are still being worked out, and Marshall professors are reviewing how the change has been done in other states, Eagle said.

“It varies across the country in some of the different models we’ve looked at. The one that I looked at that I liked best has about 150 hours in the school in the first semester, which is about two days a week. It may be more than that. It just depends on what we’re able to work out.”

Marshall hopes to make the switch in the fall semester of 2019, Eagle said.

“The whole idea is to put out the best teachers that we possibly can that are ready to go into schools and are going to stay in teaching, because we want them to be so comfortable and so devoted to it that they don’t spend a couple of years in it and then go off to do something else,” she said.

Leonard said WVU-P likes the change to a clinical model because it puts the student in a school from the beginning of a school year to the end. Just one semester doesn’t give the student enough experience of how a year flows, he said.

Board member James Wilson asked Eagle about behavior problems, specifically if problems that once were mainly in high school are being found more in elementary school.

“It’s not just the elementary level,” she replied. “It’s the pre-school level, too.”

To get Marshall’s education students more used to dealing with the change in behavioral problems, it has been placing some students in classrooms as early as the second semester of their freshman year, she said.

After the meeting, Leonard said teachers are having to deal with the effects of the drug epidemic as early as kindergarten, and schools must recognize they will have to deal with that for many years to come.

“That will be an issue for the next 20 years. When that child starts in kindergarten, you’re looking at a 12- or 13-year window, best-case scenario,” he said.

Staff Writer Jim Ross can be reached at 304-395-3483 or email at [email protected].

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