The college classroom has its limitations.
Carol Geiken and Amy Sneed, professors in the Department of Education and Teacher Preparation at College of Coastal Georgia, have partnered with two local elementary schools this semester to provide students with learning opportunities off the college campus.
The college started a new kind of partnership with Oglethorpe Point Elementary School this year, through which a group of the college’s education majors are spending four days a week in classrooms.
Two days are spent working in assigned classrooms, where they focus on different styles of co-teaching. The other two days are spent in other classrooms getting a variety of experiences.
“If we’re going to really teach them how to teach, where are you going to learn it best? Out in the field,” said Geiken, a special education lecturer and field supervisor for CCGA. “So we’re moving more towards a clinical model.”
Geiken and Sneed also teach lessons to their college students while they’re at Oglethorpe Point, and the students spend time writing reflections of their classroom experience.
“Today, they’re going to be going out to the classroom and we wanted them to focus on the questioning techniques that teachers are using to foster critical thinking skills,” Geiken said. “Then they come back here and reflect, and we’ll do a mini-lesson.”
The principles and practices of teaching can simply be discussed in the college classroom, she said. In schools, though, the college students can put their education into action.
Paige Middleton, an education major working at Oglethorpe Point Elementary this semester, said she prefers the field work over the classroom experience.
“We get to see it in real life and see what’s actually happening,” she said. ”You can’t re-create this in a college classroom.”
Middleton said she’s learning practices by observing teachers in their classrooms across multiple grade levels.
“I hope to take from these teachers the good practices and pick out things that we ideally would want to have in our own classroom,” she said.
The partnership with Oglethorpe Point Elementary this year is more immersive than it’s been past years, Geiken said.
Faye Barnett, the instructional coach at Oglethorpe Point Elementary, said the college teacher candidates have been a great addition to the elementary school.
“It’s like hiring 14 additional teachers,” Barnett said. “… If you ask any school what do they need, it’s always more teachers and more staff. And I think this is a great way to fill a need, but also our teaches have felt very empowered by sharing their teaching knowledge.”
Geiken and Sneed assigned another class of college education majors to complete a service learning project at Goodyear Elementary School this semester, through which the students came to Goodyear twice a week during the afternoon for about a month to work with students in third through fifth grades.
The service-learning partnership included an engineering project with a literacy component embedded throughout, in which the students learned about pneumatics by building moveable monsters. The students also wrote a persuasive essay on why their monster should by hired by Monster’s Inc., from the Pixar animated film.
The teacher candidates were able to work almost one-on-one with Goodyear’s students.
“We learn about all this stuff in class. But it’s one thing sitting in a college classroom learning about all these theories, and it’s another thing coming and actually getting to work with the kids and finding out what real life is going to be like,” said Eryn Graeter, an education major who worked at Goodyear Elementary.
Sneed, an assistant professor of middle grades education at CCGA, said the project aimed to provide the students with real-time learning through their interactions with the elementary students.
“We’ve seen their honing their teaching practices, but they’re also learning how to deal with the real dilemmas of practice,” Sneed said. “They’re running into the issues they’e going to run into in classrooms, and so we’re working through that with them in sort of live time. That’s something we can’t achieve in the college classroom.”