(Editor’s note: The following article was republished with permission of Fayette Publishing and news writer Chris DeBack.)
There’s no substitution for real-world experience when it comes to training the teachers of tomorrow.
Classroom instruction can only go so far for an education major that can’t be gleaned from actual time in a classroom. A number of Upper Iowa University students are getting that real-world experience through a partnership with West Central Elementary in Maynard, Iowa.
Every Monday through the first quarter, 12 UIU students of Barb Ehlers, UIU associate professor of education, will head over to West Central to teach a science lesson with Diane Boltz’s third-grade class. It gives these students first-hand experience in not only creating a lesson with the Next Generation Science Standards that were introduced in 2015, but also in implementing the lesson with elementary students.
“As hard as you try, when you give a well-prepared lesson to your peers in college, they all sit and listen intently,” Boltz said. “Then you find out when you get into the classroom, it is a little more boisterous. It was awesome for the UIU students to get that real feeling to be with kids. It is good to have that experience where students blurt out questions and who decide to get up and wander to a different group to see what someone else is doing. It teaches [the UIU students] classroom management skills, which is so important if you want to be a teacher.”
Not only does this aid the UIU students, but Mrs. Boltz’s class benefits from more one-on-one instruction they receive throughout the lesson.
“Anytime you can get [your students] in a small group where you can go one-on-one is amazing, instead of talking to 21 students at a time,” Boltz explained. “To have that individual attention, where all your students can have a turn to talk and express what they think, is invaluable. It is chaos, but it is good chaos because the groups are bustling about. If the students ask any questions, it can be talked over in their groups, where each student can give his or her perspective.”
So far, the UIU students have worked on lessons about the life cycles of plants and animals and will cover soil and water conservation next week. Boltz also plans for the students to help teach a lesson on the water cycle, among other things through the first quarter.
“I like to see how each UIU student brings something different to the lesson,” she added. “The breakdown of the lesson is the same, but each student brings something different to each standard. For instance, ‘How do animals adapt to their environment?’ Someone might do a Venn diagram, another might do a worksheet, another might show examples. So, it is just fun to see the different ways they [UIU students] tackle a project, and it breathes some new life into the way I see it.”
The UIU students in Mrs. Boltz’s class aren’t the only ones benefiting from the stronger relationship between the university and school district. After school, a number of other UIU students come to WC for one-on-one reading tutoring through an initiative created by fourth-grade teacher Carla Even.
“This is something that I had been involved with when I taught at a school in Waterloo,” Even said. I had students from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) come and do a clinic, and I thought that with the amazing results I had, I would like to bring that to West Central. I am a graduate of UIU, and I thought I received a phenomenal education, and I wanted to provide this opportunity to my alma mater. This way [UIU] students could all be housed together, and they could be observed and get feedback, instead of being out on their own, tutoring.”
Each West Central student who signed up for the extra tutoring is assigned to a UIU student, who works on different reading techniques.
“The students at West Central get a higher level of reading achievement and a relationship with the Upper Iowa student, which could prompt them to think that college might be an option for them in the future,” Even closed.
It’s strong partnerships like these that not only improve the achievement of the elementary students, but better prepare education majors for their future careers.