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teachHOUSTON Mentor and student share their story

Veteran Teacher, Student Instructor Talk About Teacher Preparation, Mentors

By: Laura Isensee, June 30th, 2015 05:00 AM 

INSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Montrel Lacour and Paloma Garner
Paloma Garner and Montrel Lacour

In the effort to improve public education, some people are taking a fresh look at teacher training. That preparation can vary widely from colleges of education to alternative certification programs.

Two instructors — one a veteran and the other still a student himself — tell their experience.

Montrel Lacour is a senior at the University of Houston and wants to teach biology. He’s preparing with the programteachHOUSTON and was paired with a mentor teacher this past school year.

He watched veteran biology instructor Paloma Garner in her classroom and even taught a few lessons to her students at Davis High School in north Houston. They recently chatted about that experience.

HERE’S A TRANSCRIPT OF THEIR CONVERSATION:

Montrel Lacour: Before I did forget, I did want to give you my thank you letter.

Paloma Garner:  That’s really thoughtful and nice. I’m very touched that you took the time to write a two-page, handwritten letter to me.

Did you think teaching would be a little easier or harder? Did it change your perception?

Lacour: A lot! Yeah, a lot! At first before you just get the topic and you’re like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ And then you sit down and you start to plan and you’re like, ‘I have no idea what to do with this!’

When you actually get in the classroom full of students and, you know, you put it into action and it’s actually you working with students, sometimes you forget what works with kids.

Sometimes you’re just like, ‘Oh man, that lesson tanked!’ Because you focus maybe on the, you think maybe the planning didn’t go the right way. But then a mentor teacher like you and other ones past are like that was actually pretty good, you know.

Garner: Teacher certification tests are based on like the ideal situation. You take these tests and imagine your classroom of 20 students and they are all diligently taking notes so it’s funny that that’s what happens in training and that’s why that real world experience is so valuable.

Lacour: Teaching wasn’t something I thought about that much. But when I got into it, I found out I really enjoyed it.  And I loved biology. As I was teaching it, it was me wanting to share that. When you’re actually teaching in the classroom and you get students to understand it, and things are clicking and you’re like, ‘Ah they get it!’

Garner: Such a good feeling! It’s so awesome! It’s gold!

You know, I went into teaching with four weeks of training and I was just thrown into a classroom just like you’re doing with your sample teaches, like no idea what I was doing.

And it’s so awesome to see you get this experience, in your year two and your year three, doing high school lessons that you’re preparing. And now you’re going to be doing your student teaching. And it’s so awesome to see that kind of sheltered instruction

Lacour: Just the experience of having mentor teachers has been great. There’s a relationship of trust and they want you to improve. It’s not so much of you did all these things wrong. It’s a very caring –they want you to improve and such.

You may mess up or you may do something wrong in the classroom, but it’s not like you’re being ridiculed from it. It’s actually a really, really nice experience the way that you get the criticism – not even the criticism, but like the guidance …

Garner: the feedback?

Lacour: Yeah, the feedback. It’s a very open situation.

Garner: And I think really kind of mentor teachers are the life blood of what keeps teachers in education, without these people to have these, you want to have dialogue of what makes a good lesson, what makes a good assessment and those mentor teachers are the people who can help you do that, which is why it’s been really exciting for me to be a mentor teacher while maintaining the relationships with my own mentors. You know, all of us are just kind of passing it on to each other.