Teaching residents of unique school program in Detroit finds medical-like mentorship model inspires confidence

During a two-day visit to the UM campus, the first class of students from Marygrove worked together on problem-solving and engineering projects. Image credit: Heather Nash

Discussions around the fall return to in-person school after more than a year of remote learning have largely focused on the general impact on K-12 kids and veteran teachers. But little was said about the new beginning teachers whose critical year of classroom training was spent learning to teach on a computer.

Isra Elshafei, a teacher at Marygrove School in Detroit, is grateful for a unique teaching residency program that provides additional support and mentorship she doubts others who have completed online teaching during the pandemic will receive .

“As a first-grade teacher, I already felt the madness of finally being in a real classroom,” she said. “I feel like that is quickly mitigated just by having that connection. Being able to have support, knowing it’s going to be there, is really helpful, especially knowing the teacher burnout rates over the course of of their first three years.

Elshafei is one of two new residents at Marygrove School, where the UM School of Education has a teacher training program that begins with participants enrolled as undergraduate or graduate student interns for one to two years, then continues after graduation and certification throughout their three first years as a teacher in a public school.

The rigorous teaching residency is structured like a medical school program. Participants enter the program as students earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree with teacher certification. They begin by shadowing expert teachers at school and each semester gradually take on more classroom responsibility, eventually leading the class from unit planning and daily instruction to assessment and parent meetings. .

Upon graduation, these certified teachers enter the residency which provides novice teachers with mentorship as they grow in the profession. As residents, they are paid by teachers from the Detroit Public School Community District who will move to other schools in the city after their residency.

Michigan Education Teaching School is the first of its kind, said Elizabeth Birr Mojedean of the UM School of Education.

“Although this model of teacher preparation is new, we hope to demonstrate why it should be the norm,” she said. “We believe we can solve the critical challenges that prevent people from joining or staying in the teaching profession by giving educators the support they need to succeed. When we invest in preparing educators, we are investing in our communities, our economy and our democracy.

Michigan Education Teaching School and Marygrove School are part of a cradle-to-career educational campus formed through a unique collaboration. Partners include UM, Detroit Public Schools Community District, Kresge Foundation, Starfish Family Services and Marygrove Conservatory.

The residency pairs new teachers with seasoned professionals – veteran district teachers and UM faculty and staff.

“Our current national teacher training model is sort of a sink or swim model… you get a few years of teacher training courses and practice and then you’re on your own. Typically, early career teachers have to fend for themselves, which adds significantly to their stress,” said Darin Stockdila mentor who is a program designer at the UM Center for Educational Design, Evaluation, and Research.

“As a mentor, I work collaboratively with residents to reflect on the challenges they face and identify priorities to work on. Then we implement strategies and insights and collect data along the way to assess the growth and development of teaching practice,” he said. “Part of that is in the moment of support, for example, I might quickly suggest a way to adapt an activity to generate more discussion among students in the middle of a class I’m observing, or between classes. On the other hand, some of the work is longer-term and ongoing, particularly with respect to curriculum development and adaptation.

This year, Stockdill is mentoring Lindsay Helfman, who teaches history to 11th graders.

Helfman spent 10 years as an adjunct instructor in higher education before returning to earn a master of arts with high school teacher certification at UM. She laughs at the question many have asked her: Why quit college education to start a K-12 career again?

One answer is practical: auxiliary education was too unpredictable. But listen long enough to Helfman talk about her experience, first as an intern and now as a resident, and it’s clear that change isn’t just about finances and job security.

“These students are amazing. It’s great to see them having fun again,” said Helfman, noting that the remote year has been difficult for students who had barely started at their new school before the pandemic.

In the history class she teaches, Helfman asks from day one, “What makes us human? How can we act, locally, to change the world for the better?

“Teachers start from grade 9 to explore and instill these values, and students at Marygrove really embrace them,” she said. “They care about their school, the community and the world.”

Helfman said weekly meetings with Elshafei, 2nd-year resident Katie Guzdial, and 3rd-year resident Sneha Rathi spark discussions about how best to serve their young students.

“It feels like we have our own community,” she said. “It’s really nice to have support, especially when you’re teaching in an urban district in a brand new career.”

Alistair Bomphraythe P-20 Curriculum and Teacher Education Coordinator, said UM appreciates working with everyone at the school as the team seeks to support high-quality teaching.

“Well-supported new teachers are better prepared to deliver quality teaching, so we hope students at Marygrove engage in deeper learning experiences as we provide our residents with that extra support,” he said. he declares. “We are in the process of collecting data to see if this is indeed the case, but at first it certainly appears to be the case.”

Stockdill said Marygrove students also benefit from exposure to lifelong learning.

“They are able to see their teachers as people who are working to improve their practice and hopefully have a better appreciation for their hard work,” he said. “UM’s large presence in the school also inspires students to talk and think about post-secondary education more deeply and enables partnerships and collaborations that might not otherwise occur.”

Prior to becoming a resident, Elshafei worked with a team led by UM to create the robotics program the school is offering for the first time this year. Like Helfman, she has students in grade 11 from the first class to start in high school – 100 students in four sections.

“They’re all so ready to come back and ready to learn, and just to see how they’re taking advantage of the opportunities here is amazing,” Elshafei said. “I love being here, especially being able to teach robotics.”

Written by Laurel Thomas