Aspiring teachers are receiving hands-on experience with at-risk youth through a unique partnership between the Belmont School of Education and local public, inner city schools. A four-hour professional core class, a requirement for education major and minors, puts Belmont students onsite at Murrell School, Magnet Middle School, Pearl Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School and Glendale Spanish Immersion Elementary School for reading clinics, tutoring session and classroom observation.
“Belmont students often do not have inner city experience when they come to the University. This is enhancing the learning of our teacher candidates,” said Education Professor Joy Kimmons. Metro Nashville Public Schools has hired several Belmont alumni who participated in her class as full-time teachers or student teachers.
On a recent winter morning, Belmont students met in at Pearl Cohn for their 45-minute lecture with Kimmons.
“Physical activity can alter the mood of a student who has trouble in the classroom,” Kimmons said to her class of 28 students meeting in the teachers’ planning room before their individual three 30-minute tutoring sessions with Pearl Cohn students. Next, they spend an hour with their paired high school teachers to facilitate small groups as well as observe and assist in classrooms. Belmont students end the on-site session by regrouping with Kimmons and their peers to debrief through conversations that connect their textbook theories with their hands-on experiences.
“I went to a private school, so this is a blessing,” said Emily Coffey, a junior from Petersburg, Tenn. studying English and education. “I am getting an experience I didn’t have in high school. I am learning and growing with these students. It is nice to have them open up to me.”
Pearl Cohn and Belmont students sit in the hallway during the high school students’ elective classes for special tutoring sessions on the Common Core State Standards, which Tennessee adopted to increase students’ critical thinking skills especially at underperforming high schools. Coffey said she uses her English lessons and context clues to help the students understand science articles she clips from newspapers.
“When I become a teacher, that is what I am going to do – tailor to lessons to their needs,” she said.
Many of the students they are working with are considered at-risk because they struggle with learning disabilities, live in broken homes and are pregnant.
“It is a firsthand look into functions and politics of a school. The ways strategies are made for students who are advanced, proficient, basic or below basic. You have to work on life lessons. Yes, they have to learn how to use a comma, but you also have to teach them how to go on an interview,” said senior Ray Posada of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who wants to teach high school history.
“This school is so hungry and it need so much,” Pearl Cohn Literacy Coach Matthew King. “The most noticeable and obvious impact is watching (Belmont students) form relationships with (Pearl Cohn) students. Yes, there is academic focus but also relationship building and conversations. It’s becoming something the (Pearl Cohn) students look forward to.”
Progress and the impact of the program will be measured in May through end of course exams.