One of the things that drew me to Bank Street in 1986 was hearing about the unique and exceptional approach of Bank Street’s fieldwork process. Not having been a graduate of Bank Street myself, but having colleagues at the schools where I worked talk about their education at Bank Street, I was excited about the prospect of working here and being able to support its graduate students. Prior to beginning my role as a supervised fieldwork advisor, I did a great deal of reading about Bank Street and spoke with everyone I knew who had either attended or worked at Bank Street. I imagined with great anticipation what an amazing experience it was bound to be. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the opportunity to be a Bank Street advisor would far exceed anything I had anticipated and would define my professional life for more than 30 years. I have had many roles at Bank Street, but no other role has been as exciting, interesting, rewarding—and yes, at times, frustrating and challenging—as that of advisor.
Supervised fieldwork and advisement include the collaborative activity of a weekly course called Conference Group where graduate students engage in a group process of professional development and support. During their fieldwork, students also receive individual advisement, a process where graduate students and advisors engage, brainstorm, set goals, and plan for the future. Individual advisement is a highly interpersonal activity that allows advisors and students to develop trusting relationships and enables honest feedback and support to occur. The process provides the opportunity to deeply explore and discuss ideas about teaching and learning. It encourages advisees to think things through and try them out, experiencing the successes and learning to manage the things that don’t go well. Through the advisor/advisee relationship, beginning teachers develop the resilience needed to persevere in a career that, while rewarding, joyful, and fun, can at times also be quite challenging as teachers attempt to meet not only the academic needs of children but also their social and emotional needs.
The world has changed dramatically over the past 30-plus years, and those of us who serve as advisors have had to stay in tune with these changes so we can best support our aspiring teachers. these graduate students are engaged in very important work as teachers, and the individual advisement process that happens in all our Bank Street programs is a key part of helping them become qualified, competent, and empathetic teachers of children across a wide range of ages and abilities. It is a manifestation of the Bank Street developmental-interaction approach, which recognizes that we all learn best when we are actively engaged with materials, ideas, and people. This approach also recognizes the need to experience diverse and supportive opportunities for social, emotional, and cognitive development. As an advisor, I model this approach in my individual work with advisees, so that they can, in turn, use this approach in their classrooms.
All of these years later, I think about all of the many graduate students I have had the privilege to know, and I feel particularly lucky to have had the opportunity to develop relationships and work closely with them through their supervised fieldwork and advisement. I think, most specifically, of some of those students who told me years after graduating that it was that individualized process that helped them feel prepared to enter the field as beginning teachers and succeed in their professional life.