Members of the Literacy Specialist Program learn not only from university courses but also from field experiences, and above all from the intersection of those two. Course work becomes vastly more complex and interesting when it is brought to bear on the very real challenges in classrooms. Every student in the Literacy Specialist Program is expected to work in a classroom or two as a teacher-researcher and reflective practitioner.
If a student is a fulltime teacher already, then that teacher’s fieldwork experience involves first, bringing a reflective lens to your own teaching and second, expanding your role as a teacher to include leading intensive small group work with students at a grade level other than your own. That is, if you are a fulltime fourth grade teacher, you’ll be asked to put all that you learn in TC courses into motion within your own classroom, and to become even more reflective as a teacher. You’ll participate in a seminar with other fulltime teachers who are also using their classrooms as learning labs, and together you’ll look at data and learn to explore the links between theory and practice. You will also be asked to lead small group work for at least three times a week, 30 minutes a time, with kindergarten, first or second graders (the degree requires that you work in both primary and upper elementary grades at some point within the program.)
If you are not a fulltime teacher, then you will have the opportunity to apprentice with an extraordinary teacher of literacy, working with that teacher four mornings a week for most of the semester. We place fieldwork interns in schools that are model sites for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Your placement will allow you to not only learn from children and a mentor teacher, but to also participate in staff development, to be part of school-based study groups, and the like. Again, you’ll be asked to spend half an hour a day, four days a week, working with a small group of children at a grade level which is very different than your placement.
Fieldwork students who apprentice in the classroom of another teacher also participate in a TC seminar to support this experience, and again, this seminar is tailored for students who are participating in an experience similar to yours. You’ll also have the chance to receive one-to-one coaching from a supervisor who will travel to your field placement in order to provide on-the-ground coaching. Your supervisor will observe and coach you at least three times across the semester.
If you already have teaching experience, for your second semester you may decide that you’d prefer your placement to be with a Teachers College Reading and Writing Project staff developer or with a literacy coach in a school. Most students, however, want their second semester to be similar to their first. Generally, faculty members try to place you in two schools that are quite different from each other, with at least one of those placements allowing you the opportunity to work with high-need students.
We’re convinced that the fieldwork is one of the most special aspects of the Literacy Specialist program.