From Pivoting to Disrupting the Status Quo
This is Part 2 of an article by Hannah Reeder and Betsy Rosenbalm of Appalachian State University in which they share how they’ve moved from pivoting to disrupting the status quo as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Being forced to think creatively about how to support student teachers and beginning teachers at Appalachian State University has resulted in changes that we are now continuing into this semester and beyond. Using virtual platforms such as Zoom, we have been able to establish connections that have reached more people without the logistical barriers that are typically present. Taking away barriers such as travel, parking, and time constraints that previously seemed inevitable and unavoidable, have challenged us to consider if they are indeed necessary. What we have realized is that what started out as Plan B is now becoming Plan A. Providing seamless support for students and teachers that disrupts the status quo has many advantages.
Overcoming barriers and offering meaningful learning opportunities for pre-service and in-service teachers has led us to think differently about how we support our students and teachers. During the summer of 2020, both of our offices teamed up with the Reich College of Education’s Math & Science Education Center to host a virtual education conference called IDEA-CON. The conference offered a variety of sessions for educators of all levels, from beginning teachers to teacher educators. From brief resource sharing sessions to 30-minute idea discussions to panels to plenary speakers, IDEA-CON had something for everyone. And best of all, we were able to offer this conference for FREE.
While we are continuing to find ourselves in a virtual world, there have been quite a few silver linings. One of the most obvious has been the strong relationships and bonds that were established much earlier in the semester between our clinical educators (host teachers) and their student teachers. For so many of our clinical educators, they are taking it one day at a time. This means that our student teachers aren’t the only ones who are learning. Our clinical educators and student teachers are learning alongside each other. Plus, many of our clinical educators are relying on the tech-savviness of our student teachers to help them overcome the digital divide. This has created a true partnership between our student teachers and their clinical educators.
All of our student teaching seminars are being held virtually this semester. While there are definitely things we miss about these in-person events, we’ve found that the engagement has been high. Of course, we have to work hard and think creatively about how to make these seminars as interactive as possible. This is an ongoing challenge.
The Office of Field Experiences started hosting edTPA Frequently Asked Question sessions last year but we are also adding some general Q&A sessions to our line-up this semester. We also redesigned our Clinical Educator Institutes, which are orientations designed for clinical educators. This year we moved the institutes into an online course and had the highest completion rate that we’ve seen since we started the institutes.
And finally, we are anticipating that it is going to be difficult securing student teaching placements for the spring 2021 semester due to the pandemic. To that extent, we launched a recruitment campaign to encourage more teachers to consider hosting a student teacher. These campaigns included video clips from current clinical educators, the dissemination of an interest survey, social media posts, and an informational meeting for principals and HR directors.
As we look towards the future of education in a time of uncertainty, the Reich College of Education’s Public School Partnership is piloting a program called the “Partnership Leaders Council” (PLC). This yearly cohort of selected teacher/student leaders will make up the PLC. The PLC will be created through an application selection process of 3 to 4 current or aspiring leaders in each of the 12 partner institutions/districts in our Partnership. The PLC will also consist of student leaders from a variety of teacher education programs at Appalachian State University. This program has the potential to provide invaluable mutual support and relevant insight for not only our aspiring leaders in the Public School Partnership regions, but also for our App State students, staff, and faculty leaders through the pillars of resources, recruitment, and professional development. Four to five virtual meetings will be held to engage this group in leadership development, panels, discussions, and planning for a leadership conference and collaborative service project in our region of the state. While this semester may look different than it has in the past, we are excited about some of the new ideas that are coming out of experiences such as this.
The NC New Teacher Support Program (NC NTSP) will also be providing support through virtual NC NTSP coaching and support. We are excited to have grown from supporting 27 new teachers last year to supporting 61 new teachers this year, through face to face and virtual means! We will also be offering virtual state-wide ongoing content area support groups, as well as a four-day virtual statewide Beginning Teacher Institute in October. Our breadth and depth of services has grown significantly in this virtual world of opportunities.
Through our experiences, we have learned so much about what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. The following questions will now shed light on our current and future work as we apply what we have learned in this pandemic experience to our outreach practices:
- How can we be fair and equitable across the state and nation to provide accessible programming?
- How can we build and sustain relationships with our students and partners?
- How can we eliminate barriers to participating and engaging in Appalachian State University offerings?
The future is bright and the options are endless!