LSOE Partnership with Boston Schools to Include Mentoring, Technology Programs

LSOE Partnership with Boston Schools to Include Mentoring, Technology Programs

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

Supported by a recent grant, the Lynch School of Education has embarked on the next phase of a teacher-training program in Boston schools, which will include the launching of programs that pair Boston College students with local high school students.

During this phase, BC students will be "e-mail tutors" and also serve as mentors for high schoolers who show a potential interest in teaching.

In addition, University faculty will help high school teachers integrate technology into the classroom and work on improving instructional practice in a range of areas.

These activities are an outgrowth of the Title II Teacher Quality Enhancement Program, a statewide initiative to strengthen the preparation of new teachers for careers in urban public schools. Boston College is the lead partner in the coalition undertaking the program, which recently was awarded a $1.4 million United States Department of Education grant to fund its second year of operation.

As part of the initiative, BC formed partnerships with the Garfield Elementary School of Allston and Brighton High School. Faculty from LSOE and the College of Arts and Sciences work with the Boston teachers in pursuing the Title II program objectives, such as improving instruction in literacy.

Other goals of the program include increasing participation of arts and sciences faculty in teacher education, promoting teacher quality issues in research and public policy and organizing broad-based "communities of inquiry and practice" among education, business and community stakeholders.

"It's become very clear that student teachers need more sufficient support to help them start their careers in a positive way," said lead researcher LSOE Associate Dean Dennis Shirley. "This project in particular seeks to bring in two critical constituents: higher education faculty in the arts and sciences, and parents in the community. It's a big challenge, but our hope is to find innovative ways of preparing this new generation of teachers."

One of the more high-profile activities planned is the mentoring program with Brighton High students. These prospective education majors would visit the Boston College campus regularly and "shadow" their BC mentors to gain an understanding of how to prepare for a teaching career, said the partnership's director, Prof. Maria Brisk (LSOE).

"Many high school kids think it's easy to be a teacher," she said. "It's important to encourage those who are interested in the teaching profession, but at the same time you want them to appreciate the work that is required."

Another component of the program, Brisk said, involves organizing campus activities and events for the Brighton High students according to their potential area of specialization. Students geared to the arts and humanities, for example, might visit the McMullen Museum.

The e-mail tutoring program offers an opportunity for additional contact between BC and Brighton High students, Brisk said, as well as providing a means for the youngsters to become familiar with computer technology as an educational tool. Both programs are expected to start before next spring, she said.

Technology also will be the focus of some partnership activities involving BC and Brighton High faculty. Assoc. Prof. Richard Jackson (LSOE) will help adapt technology to a program for students with reading difficulties, while Adj. Senior Lect. Debbie Rusch (Romance Languages) will work with teachers on tailoring World Wide Web-based exercises she developed for use with Spanish language films.

During the next few months, the University also will sponsor seminars, workshops and other activities that encompass a variety of issues in teacher-training and professional development. Representatives from BC, Garfield and Brighton High will focus on instructional practice in areas such as literacy, mathematics, technology and bilingual teaching, and discuss improving advisement for A&S students interested in teaching careers.
"We are helping the schools, but we also see this as an opportunity for the schools to advise us," said Brisk. "We are seeking to improve the way we prepare teachers for urban schools. It is important, therefore, that the Garfield and Brighton High teachers offer us their observations, experiences and concerns."

Undergraduate and graduate students who work in urban classrooms have a similarly vital role in the program, added Brisk. Students in LSOE's Charles F. Donovan, SJ, Teaching Scholars program will take part in a seminar on urban teaching that culminates in a two-day institute next summer, she noted.
"These students are out there in the schools every week, and they, too, have observations and concerns to share," Brisk said.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Teacher Quality and Student Achievement World Wide Web page, has more information on the program.


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