[To learn more about this program, come to the EduCon Session about it, either live or remotely. Student Assistant Teaching – A Workshop on Replication and Implementation, Saturday at 2:30 in Room 311. And if you want to count this as an EduConText blog, well, then by all means do.]
I generally don’t believe that the way to education reform is to think that we can create "black box" models of education that can be taken whole-cloth and applied to any school, anywhere. But there are some ideas that really can, with customization for each school, be transferrable pretty easily. One of those ideas that exists at SLA is our Senior Assistant Teaching program.
In a moment of full disclosure, I stole this idea too. I got the idea at a workshop at the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference two years ago.
Most high schools I know have variations on these two issues – senioritis and needing more people who can mentor younger students. This program addresses both of these issues.
The Student Assistant Teaching program is simple in its format and more challenging to make work well.
Format: Take seniors who have met their requirements and offer them the chance to be an assistant teacher in a 9th and/or 10th grade class. Have them work with the teacher to be an extra set of eyes / hands in the room, work with small groups, teach some mini-lessons… be, as the name suggests, an assistant teacher. Support with a monthly meeting and some journal writing for all the SATs and the teachers who run the program much like a methods seminar in a graduate level education program.
Benefits: Seniors get really invested in the success of the younger kids, and that keeps seniors invested in school and classes after college acceptance letters come out, because the seniors are invested in something other than their own next steps in life. Seniors also get to pass on the culture of the school to the younger students in much more powerful ways. Seniors get a real sense of the teaching life (for those who may be considering it) and a life of service and they see the real highs and lows of being on the other side of the classroom equation. And the younger students get a huge benefit by having older students in the room to work with, learn from, get help from, etc…
Stuff To Work On: Navigating the space between mentor teachers and SATs is a challenge. It can be tough for teachers to find roles for the SATs sometimes, especially if teachers are used to more of a "stand in the front" kind of teaching. (This program does lend itself to a more constructivist classroom, I think.) If you are a school that takes student teachers from university programs, suddenly, teachers can be juggling a lot of people who want responsibility, and that can be hard. And everyone, students, SATs, teachers have to figure out how this space works, because the student – teacher line now is blurry and needs to be navigated with care. Teachers have to make sure they remember that SATs are still students which can be hard. But teachers also have to empower them enough for them to be effective. To that end, we would not have a successful SAT program were it not for the teachers who oversee the entire program. Their work in
The SAT program has been a huge value-add at SLA. Younger students benefit tremendously from the work of the SATs. Seniors take such a vested and powerful interest in the kids’ work… I was just talking to a SAT who told me that she went on the Facebook pages of every kid in her 9th grade class and reminded them to finish their projects and that she would be online for help if they needed it. The seniors do an incredible job of passing on the culture of SLA to the younger kids. And for many of the seniors, it is an incredible growth experience for them, and for many, it has solidified their ideas about wanting to become a teacher. Teachers have another way to help students, another set of eyes, and the wisdom of a different perspective in and of the classroom every day.
This one just makes sense, and it is eminently stealable and adaptable to other school environments. Low cost, high reward.
To repeat – To learn more about this program, come to the EduCon Session about it, either live or remotely. Student Assistant Teaching – A Workshop on Replication and Implementation, Saturday at 2:30 in Room 311.