For the third year in a row I came back from EduCon with an idea that I wanted my school to implement. This time, it was their Student Assistant Teacher (SAT) program where upperclassmen serve as assistant teachers in introductory classes. A colleague and I saw this in action at Science Leadership Academy. The students who spoke about their experiences were so passionate and the benefits to the community so great that it seemed worth introducing to our school. After discussion among Department Chairs and Faculty, we decided to test it out with a pilot program. We provided an information session and invited applications for three courses – Spanish I, English 9, and History of the Modern World.
We are now a month into the program; I am piloting the program in my Modern World history class with a senior who was in that class with me two years ago. We are building the program as we go. We have to craft a course description and devise a guideline for grading since students get an elective credit for the program. The three teachers and four students involved this year are meeting on a regular basis. We are talking about what is appropriate to expect from an SAT, and what they might produce by way of documentation of their experience. Those pieces are still in process, so I will hold off dicussing that until a later post.
I talk with my SAT on a regular basis, in weekly meetings to plan, but also before and after classes and as needed when we have to alter the plans. She has attended the team meetings for teachers of the course. She is another set of eyes in the classroom to see who might be lost or off task. When we have small group discussions, she is able to circulate and engage with the students. In a writing workshop day, she was able to split the class with me so that we could provide a 7 minute conference with every student about their paragraphs. After that some students have chosen to share their work with her and she has continued to provide them with feedback.
While there is so much benefit to having an older student with me in a class of sophomores, I am also able to reflect on my teaching as I explain the rationale for plans and changes in plans. As the year goes on, I expect she will be more involved in planning and executing those plans. I get the perspective of a student who has done what I am asking and has experienced the challenges and the payoffs. She gets the opportunity to learn about life on the other side of the desk. Together we get to build the curriculum of this program from the ground up.