L. How can I support my intern's growth and development?
A mentor can engage with their intern in charting growth throughout the internship year in the following ways:
Intern's Weekly Schedules
The mentor teacher and intern develop a weekly schedule. The schedule will be submitted to the PDA by the intern and should highlight the times when the intern will be working with children. The intern's schedule should reflect the intern's stage of development and degree of classroom responsibility. For example, in the beginning of the year the "lesson" may include supporting a small group of children as the mentor teaches a full group lesson or working with an individual child. As the intern begins to prepare lesson plans, you must identify which of the lessons being taught will include a formal lesson plan. Remember, you should decide what that lesson plan must look like and feel free to adjust the amount of teaching the intern is doing based on the intern's developmental level.
Lesson planning is a mental activity in which the teacher spends time engaged in making a series of important instructional decisions about the lesson to be taught. As experienced, veteran teachers, mentors plan lessons in many different ways and at many different times. Sometimes, they sit down and plan lessons in a formal sort of way. At other times, they plan lessons driving to work, in the shower, or walking down the hallway. Although as experienced teachers, mentors often do not produce a formal written plan for the lessons they will teach, they understand the process of lesson planning thoroughly and are therefore able to plan lessons in more informal ways.
Interns, on the other hand, are still in the process of developing an understanding of lesson planning. They are still learning about the multitude of factors that must be considered in planning high quality learning activities. Therefore, within the PDS, mentors require their interns to engage in the mental process of lesson planning and also produce a detailed written lesson plan. The development of the written lesson plan serves two purposes. First, it provides concrete evidence that the intern has considered all of the important decisions and factors which need to be considered in planning the lesson. Second, it makes the intern's thought processes explicit so that the mentor and PDA can assess and help to improve the intern's ability to plan lessons.
PDAs introduce interns to lesson planning emphasizing that lesson planning is a mental process, and the production of written lesson plans is important for beginning teachers for the reasons mentioned above. PDAs share with interns multiple written formats for lesson planning. It is the mentor teacher who decides the format for written lesson plans for each intern, based on the examples provided in methods courses, monthly mentor meetings, and their own personal planning style. In general, it is encouraged that mentors require a more detailed written format at the start of the internship year, moving towards a teacher plan book by the end of the internship year. Detailed written plans must be given to the mentor for feedback at least twenty four hours before the lesson is to be taught.
Reflective Journal and Triad Journal
Interns write weekly journals throughout the course of the year. If it seems appropriate and helpful sometime during the year, a weekly triad journal may be initiated by the intern and then passed to the PDA and mentor for their contributions and reflections.
Interns will be developing a working electronic portfolio throughout the year in an effort to document their progress on the competencies identified by the Penn State Teacher Education Conceptual Framework. Preparing the e-Portfolio also serves as an opportunity for the intern to articulate beliefs about teaching and learning and to justify those beliefs through evidence linked to experiences during the course of the internship year. Interns will develop several versions of their "Developing Ideas about Teaching and Learning" over the course of the internship year. At the end of the internship, this portfolio might become a showcase portfolio demonstrating who the intern has become as a teacher. The mentor can help the intern collect documentation to demonstrate the intern's growth, (e.g., pictures, journal entries, artifacts, trip sheets).
Weekly Mentor/Intern Conversations
In addition to the conversations that occur informally each day, try to set aside a good amount of time each week to discuss the intern's growth and development, set new goals, collaboratively reflect on the children/classroom, and share your thinking about teaching. A mentor is a school-based teacher educator and this time is critical for allowing the intern to glean insight into a mentor's thinking about his/her own practice.
Try to engage in reflective/inquiry-oriented supervision with your intern. You can begin this process with a preconference in which you discuss the lesson with the intern before it is taught. During this preconference, you and the intern can decide on a specific focus for collecting data during the lesson. You can then use the data as a basis for reflection during the postconference, after the lesson. This process provides powerful feedback to the intern, inspires reflection, and documents growth.
Optimally, the mentor will collaborate in inquiry with the intern. Inquiry provides a vehicle for both participants to reflect on their beliefs about teaching, explore an instructional practice, understand an individual student, or investigate a curriculum area. Inquiry can be a powerful form of professional development for both mentor and intern.
Because a mentor is keenly aware of an intern's strengths, needs, and personal interests, the mentor can be helpful in identifying other colleagues who the intern may want to observe. The interns are responsible for completing observations both within and outside of the intern's home school.
Each intern arrives at your classroom door with a unique set of strengths and needs. Your intern's work should be organized around those strengths and needs, and roles and responsibilities can be organized using the concept of an Individual Intern Plan.