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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

#NeedATeacherAskATeacher: Informal Mentorship as Support for Pre-Service Teachers During the Time of COVID19

As the world turned sideways a few weeks ago with COVID19, teachers with students from K-12 and post secondary responded with collaborative spirit, professionalism, optimism, and love. The hashtag #NeedATeacherAskATeacher was created by a group of educators and leaders soon after schools closed indefinitely in Alberta as a way to support practicing teachers and parents who were navigating both online education and or homeschooling.

The Unlikely Design Challenge of Moving A Practicum Online

At the same time as this support community was established on Twitter, University of Calgary pre-service teachers were beginning a four week online course which was redesigned by an amazing team to support students in what would have been their practicum in schools. In this course, students prepared a lesson plan to teach to their online cohort. Instructors worked to build relationships as quickly as possible because these pre-service teachers needed to trust their small groups to simulate the age group that they planned to teach. Imagine how playful this could be, as they were asked to bring props, materials, and even invite their own children to participate!

These pre-service teachers, although very well supported by their instructors and their cohorts, no longer had the wisdom and experience of partner teachers to share their experience, their educational philosophies, and their tricks of the trade in real time as they planned and taught their lessons. 

How Might We Create An Opportunity For Pre-Service Teachers to Still Learn From Practicing Teachers?

Enter the spark of an idea to invite the #NeedATeacherAskATeacher community to create an informal mentorship opportunity, connecting pre-service and practicing teachers during these unprecedented times. In the world of design, we would say this was a smash up between creating a collision space for the wisdom of experienced teachers and the questions of pre-service teachers. When asked to participate, many teachers responded quickly, saying that they wanted to pay it forward, or that they appreciated mentors when they were starting out, and also that they looked forward to learning from pre-service teachers, who might be better versed in technology and online learning. 

Voices From the Field

As a professional learning tool, Twitter inspires and motivates as a powerful professional learning tool, connecting teachers far beyond the walls of their classrooms. This was an attempt to amplify the online field experience for pre-service teachers. If they couldn't be in the classroom, perhaps the wisdom could come to them. Alongside the invitation for pre-service teachers to ask specific questions, we began by asking practicing teachers an open ended question based on the course outline, as an opening for teachers to share their advice. The responses below offer a wide range of things for all teachers to consider as they begin to teach in an online setting. 

What's Next?

Generosity and reciprocity are abundant in this grassroots initiative designed to offer pre-service teachers those bits of wisdom that happen on the fly in busy classrooms. We'll continue to ask guiding questions to the community and invite pre-service teachers to ask their own questions as well, creating an interesting "pop-up" professional learning opportunity for all involved. Jump in and join the conversation!