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A meeting of educational MINDs
A new collaboration between McGill's Faculty of Education and the English Montreal School Board promises to shake up the way student teachers are taught and the way students learn at EMSB schools.
The agreement is in its very earliest stages, with both sides working towards a formal entente. "We have a prenuptial agreement between the board and our faculty and [we've] approved a kind of pilot project," explains Anthony Paré, chair of the Faculty of Education's integrated studies in education department.
"In the long run what we're hoping to do is extend the experience of our students in the schools beyond student teaching to a wide range of curricular and extra-curricular activities," Paré says. "The idea is to create as many opportunities as possible for an exchange of expertise, recognizing that schools have expertise we [McGill] can draw on and we have expertise they can draw on."
The model? A teaching hospital. Like doctors-to-be, student teachers from McGill would earn credits and get hands-on practice in their future field of study by spending plenty of time in EMSB schools.
Student teachers and EMSB students could work together for activities like science fairs, drama productions and debating teams.
The partnership would allow for action research, says Paré. "Teachers may work together, for example, to study the use of information technology at schools."
So far the testing ground has been MIND High School, where students of an advanced writing program at McGill have been sharing those writing skills with MIND students. A group of McGill students has also gone to the school to talk about styles of learning.
McGill classes could be taught at EMSB schools associated with McGill, Paré says, and elementary and secondary students could visit McGill and access its resources. The "two-way" exchange might include teachers from EMSB giving methods courses at McGill, and working with our teachers, says Paré.
"I hate to use the word pilot study," says MIND Principal Gail Somerville. "I have a very selfish goal in mind. It's how to enrich MIND students."
An "informal liaison" already existed between MIND - the acronym stands for Moving in New Directions - and McGill because many of the school's teachers are McGill grads and the University's student teachers work there as guest teachers.
Earlier this year MIND was at risk of closing, and teaming up with McGill helped save the school. "We changed our direction," Somerville says. "We looked at what both schools could offer."
The collaboration's nontraditional approach is a natural fit for MIND, a school that aims at helping students excel beyond how they'd fare in traditional schools.
Somerville says the collaboration is nothing like having a student teacher visit a class for only a few weeks, then disappear. You won't find student teachers using lesson plans either. "Here it's more of an equal footing," she says. "They're sharing and learning together. They're not just coming in to teach. They're learning from the students.
"It's really very exciting," says Somerville. "We will reevaluate and come and see how the students, how MIND benefited and how McGill benefited. I obviously think this is win-win for the students at McGill and for the students at MIND."