Penn State College of Education Elementary and Middle School Professional Development School

I chose the PDS program because I was interested
in the yearlong student teaching experience rather than just the semester. So I knew that
I would be able to see how the teacher set up for the classroom and tore the classroom
down as well at the end of the year. It requires a year. It’s a very difficult
program. It’s very demanding. It is an incredible family of people who all
have the same goal in mind. The 4 Es are about our main goals. The 1st goal is to enhance the educational
experiences of all children. The 2nd goal is about our pre-service teachers in terms
of ensuring high quality induction into the profession. The 3rd goal is to engage veteran
teachers and teacher educators in ongoing professional development. And then the 4th
goal is to educate the next generation of teacher educators. It’s a commitment to going
beyond. You’re in your classroom every day. You have work on top of that. Just the fact that they’re there on the first
pre-planning day all the way to the last day of school. They see that entire school year.
They work the same hours I do essentially. Does sound sort of painful to think about
graduating and being a senior and having all of your friends disappear on May 5th. And
you coming back to the classroom the very next day on the 6th. I mean it sounds torturous
but if you ask interns not one of them would give it up. They are really getting involved from Day
1. They’re getting involved in the classroom community. They’re getting involved in classroom
management. They’re getting involved with helping students and working with children. Having been an intern I learned that most
of teaching begins with the thought that goes into teaching. The setting up of the classroom. The development of a community based on a thoughtful, purposeful plan. When you do the whole year, the State College
Area School District right from the very beginning takes you in as a new teacher. Interns are considered as much a part of the
faculty as everybody else. They are involved in the planning from the
1st day of school. Being with the class all day every day, being
in on parent teacher conferences. They are part of all of our division meetings. So when the kids walk through the door they
in essence see 2 teachers in the classroom from Day 1. It’s definitely been an amazing experience
to have such a close relationship with my mentor. I remember coming in not really knowing
anything about him or his classroom. But just being immersed in it the 1st day and
really feeling comfortable and welcomed. The intern gets plenty of experience you know
in charge in the traditional sense but that there’s just a lot of collaboration. You have a mentor but it’s not just that.
You have a supervisor and she or he is there regularly. My primary responsibility is to supervise the interns which would mean being in their classrooms, provide support for them. My PDA would be in my classroom at least once
a week and he would help me out. He would really support me. So the 1st semester we’re teaching 4 days a week and then 1 day a week we were having
methods classes, so methods with science and social studies and mathematics in addition
to a classroom management seminar. So we were taking 15 credits while teaching
4 days a week, which was definitely difficult at times, but being able to be in the classroom
while we were learning these things every day and being able to apply what we were learning
immediately was something that was really helpful. I would go to the class and then a lot of
that I would see in my classroom and I would be able to use the information I learned in
my methods courses. And they have a classroom learning environments
course, which focuses on building classroom community, understanding how to orchestrate classroom routines, how to help children learn to behave appropriately and so forth. And those classes were held all day 1 day
of the week and then after school. And then the 2nd semester we were in the
classroom for the full 5-day week and then we were having seminars that were about professionalism
and how to go about interviewing and cultural differences in the classroom and so all these
different topics that we could really sit and talk and discuss into further detail which
is something that’s relevant in our lives every day. So 2nd semester we start our inquiry project. The really best inquiry projects are those
that come directly from problems that the intern and the teacher are seeing in the classrooms. Planning was a big part of my inquiry because
we needed to figure out what worked best for our students and those struggling students who needed that extra support, that different type of learning. We expect our students to be consistently
asking questions about their practice— how it’s impacting students, and to look for evidence
of the effectiveness of their practice on students. Now when I’m teaching I think back to that
inquiry all the time and what I was able to glean about student thinking, student understanding, and assessment of that in the classroom. To have that mindset helps teachers be better
at what they do throughout their career. People who know schools know that teachers represent so much of the leadership— not in formal roles, but many times just by the way they have an informal influence over their peers and what gets done. And that’s the kind of leadership that we’re trying to inspire in teachers: that they can be leaders. It is such a community of learners and growth
and inquiry and collaboration. All of us are working together to help students
be successful and to find their way. It is really unique to have an entire district
that’s working with the university rather than just 1 school and so there are multiple communities that are embedded within this larger professional development community. It’s a partnership. The teachers and administrators such as myself working with the leaders at Penn State to create this PDS and to keep it operating and working in a way that’s beneficial for all of us. It’s such a win-win for everyone. For the
teachers, for the students, for the interns. When you talk to I think anybody who’s been
through the internship program they will always say everything we did had such purpose and our voice counted. It’s a collaboration of the intern and the mentor and the PDAs
and Penn State and State College Area School District all coming together as a team. The community of the student teachers alone— We were really close and we were able to help each other with problems. I know I talked to a lot of people when I had issues
or something that I couldn’t solve on my own. We do retreats, we do ceremonies, we do rituals, we do celebrations, deliberately to keep us all mindful of the fact that we are 1 community and we’re all working for the same purposes. They come to understand teaching as a calling, which means they go well beyond whatever any school district expects of them. If there’s any characteristic that marks the students who do the PDS, it’s their commitment to being the best teachers they can be. It’s been a really fun relationship that we’ve
built together. We’ve become very good friends. We’ve become very close. I see her a lot more as a colleague because of the knowledge that she brings to the classroom. It’s just crazy how this experience can teach
you so much about yourself and yourself as a teacher. I feel like I bring something very unique
and special that has been grown in me through the PDS. And I also know that to be true because
I know my fellow interns who went through in my class and the classes before and after me are sought after. Many of these interns have beginning jobs the year after they leave
Penn State and they are recognized as school leaders. They are leaders in uses of technology in classrooms.
They’re leaders in thinking about curriculum and practice. What makes this program so different is it
doesn’t train you to do a skill. It trains you to become a professional. The pinning ceremony is a culmination of the year. Each of our interns is pinned with a circle
of children pin by his or her mentor. And that’s quite symbolic for us. The pin is something you earn that says that
you’ve made a special commitment to teaching. Speaker: You will no longer be referred to as intern but instead with one of the most honorable titles in the world: teacher. I can’t imagine not having this experience
and feeling as prepared as I do to really enter the career. I’ve definitely grown throughout the year.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and about what it takes to be in the classroom day after day
helping those kids grow, helping them learn. When I think back onto all of my experiences
now, it’s like, yeah I’m prepared and definitely PDS helped me get here. I can definitely say I am a teacher now.

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