|Becoming a Primary School Teacher in Trinidad & Tobago, Part 2: Teaching Practice - Experience of Trainees (CIE, 2000, 54 p.)|
|Chapter 3: Teaching Practice - First Round|
Cooperating teachers defined their roles differently and interacted differently with trainees from classroom to classroom. Some saw their role as facilitators, although some defined this role simply as making it possible for trainees to deliver lessons as they had planned them. One cooperating teacher defined her role in this way:
All I tell them is that we have certain topics that we have covered. I expect my work to be done. I am not going to come out and tell you that it should be done this way.
Others saw themselves as guides and assistants in smoothing over rough spots:
As a cooperating teacher, I see my role is to assist Joanne (the trainee) by telling her the level of the pupils, their standards, assisting her if she has any problems dealing with the children, just being there if she needs my help, generally.
Most indicated that they would point out flaws in the delivery of the lesson, more or less overtly, for example: At the end of each lesson, what I would normally do is tell her what I think should have been done.
In one extreme case, a cooperating teacher who felt that a lesson had been inadequately delivered, taught the entire lesson over again, to show the trainee what she felt should have been done. Many, however, indicated that they remembered their own insecurities as trainees, and tried to deliver their criticisms in ways that would not make the trainee feel worse. In only one case did a cooperating teacher define his role as being partly a collaborator with the trainee, both in planning individual lessons, and, generally, in managing the whole practice teaching exercise:
We know it's going to be hectic. You know its going to be a lot of time-consuming work and so on. We know it's going to be a lot of stress on either side, so we try to make it as comfortable as possible.
He added that, both in preparing a lesson, and at the end of it, we could sit down and beat out a topic and we could get a better idea of it.
During actual teaching sessions, the cooperating teachers also displayed different levels of participation. Some cooperating teachers were absent for the teaching practice sessions; some stood around on the fringes of the classroom and, through eye contact and facial expressions, helped to maintain discipline; others played a minor role by handing out materials to pupils when instructed to by the trainee. It also seemed that some cooperating teachers were anxious that the trainee should do a good job since they seemed to be empathizing and giving hints from the sidelines.
Not surprisingly, trainees had varying views about the role played by their cooperating teacher. The trainees reported levels of interaction that ranged from no help at all to the display of genuine interest in the trainee's work and the giving of quality feedback and advice. One trainee who was grateful for the help given by her cooperating teacher described their relationship as follows:
I teach by myself. At the end she might say, You should have done this. This would have been more appropriate, but the lesson was quite a good lesson. You need to polish up on this.' But, she is very helpful. Even before, she would ask me what I was going to teach today. She would ask me how I was going to teach it. Depending on how much time she has, she would ask me and I would explain to her and she would say, Okay.'
Other trainees were not as fortunate and some were unhappy about the lack of support from the cooperating teacher. One trainee, who depended on the cooperating teacher for the maintenance of order in the classroom, was quite disappointed that she received little help with her lessons from this cooperating teacher:
When she is not there, I have some trouble controlling some (pupils) - not all. Even when most of the class would be engaged in what might be for most an interesting task, one or two would give trouble... She should be there. Before the lesson, we should discuss it and after the lesson... she should give me feedback. Most of the time I don't get any and I think she should tell me whether it was good and where I needed help and stuff like that.
In terms of their role in evaluating individual trainees, some cooperating teachers indicated that, at the outset of the practice teaching exercise, they had made notes, but stopped when they realised that they were not being asked for their notes. In only one school did cooperating teachers indicate that they had been asked by the supervisor of the trainee teachers assigned to that school how they would evaluate the trainees. The principal of that school said that, since he had been principal, that was his first experience of collaboration between supervisors of the College concerned and staff at this practice teaching site:
He (the College supervisor) made us feel our school was not being used, then. Our school was being made part of a bigger, global thing... Before, I never felt like that.