Every program at Bank Street involves some form of supervised fieldwork. Depending on the program this can be as a head teacher, assistant teacher, or a student teacher. For my program, the dual early childhood and childhood education program, you must complete your fieldwork as a student teacher in four different classrooms throughout the school year. This is in order to cover the broad birth through 6th grade age range of the program. Most other programs only require you to be in three classrooms. I started the year at a public school in a 4th grade classroom, then I moved on to a 1st grade class at an independent school. Next, I was in a public school kindergarten classroom and finally, I just started my last placement in a preschool class.
A map made by the students in my kindergarten placement
If you opt to do your fieldwork as a student teacher, you are required to be in the classroom three days a week. For all types of fieldwork, you will be assigned an advisor who will come and observe you working in the classroom(s) throughout the year. You will also meet once a week with your advisor and a group of other students who are also participating in fieldwork. We call this our conference group. Conference group is a time to discuss your experiences in the classroom with other graduate students. In the classroom we learn by doing and in conference group we learn from what others are doing! We talk about our classes, trends in education, an article we have read, how to get a job, and other topics that might come into the discussion. The nice thing about conference group is that it is what your group makes of it. Some groups like more structure, some just like the opportunity to come and talk with no expectations. I look forward to my weekly conference group. I find it is so valuable to have this group to turn to for advice, ideas and support.
A project I facilitated while student teaching. Making guitars out of recycled materials
As I said before, we learn by doing and I have learned so much as a student teacher. You can read and study all day long but the best way to learn how to be a teacher is to teach! Being in the classroom gives us the opportunity to put the theory we have learned into practice. I was nervous about starting my student teaching right away but it was absolutely the right decision. In every course at Bank Street I think about the students I am currently working with and how I can support them in the classroom.
I have worked with four amazing head teachers, each with their own unique style. One of the best things about student teaching is the range of schools and teachers you get to experience. The best advice I can give is to soak it all up while you’re there. I keep a journal and refer back to it often. The only negative thing I can say about fieldwork is I miss the students so much every time I have to say goodbye!