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Connie Ruzich's Story
A Community of Mentors for Pre-service Teachers
As a teacher-educator, I mentor pre-service teachers in my courses for typically fifteen weeks. That means that an essential part of my work with teachers of our future is to introduce them to others who can teach them for life. Just as I’ve been supported and encouraged by membership in NCTE, I want my students to develop professional connections with people who can provide ideas, answers, and inspiration. In every course, I encourage pre-service teachers to join the national organization and attend the national convention. And yet, because the convention is frequently too distant or too costly for my students, it is the on-line community that serves as our life-line.
I ask my students to visit the NCTE website, to read and review Position Statements, to debate and apply ideas found in journal articles, and perhaps most practically and transformatively, to view the ReadWriteThink website as their community of mentors. Here are just some of the activities from ReadWriteThink that I’ve used to foster that relationship:
- Introduce pre-service teachers to an NCTE resource and community they might not know about. Ask students to browse the ReadWriteThink site and to post a classroom blog entry about a specific idea, suggestion, or resource that catches their attention.
- Give pre-service teachers a sense of options in teaching, freeing them from the “one right answer/one right lesson” approach. Ask students to identify at least three different lessons found on RWT for teaching a concept (such as lessons on the sounds of poetry or the use of punctuation), to briefly describe each lesson, and to then rank the order in which they would be likely to use each lesson, explaining and defending their choices.
- Encourage pre-service teachers to build bridges across grade levels. Ask students to find a lesson from a grade level different from what they are teaching and to adapt the lesson for their own students, reflecting on the changes and insights gained in this exercise.
- Support pre-service teachers’ informed and creative uses of technology. Ask students to research the Student Interactives on the RWT website and then to include one in an original lesson plan.
To put it simply, I team teach with ReadWriteThink. Not only do my students learn from a wide variety of diverse mentors, but as a class, we have the rich opportunity to discuss the complexities of borrowing, sampling, and adapting others’ ideas. ReadWriteThink models a critically important truth about excellence in teaching: we are all life-long learners who are continually obligated to credit others for our inspirations and ideas.
Grades 6 – 12 | Podcast Episode
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Connie Ruzich is a professor of English at Robert Morris University, where she teaches courses in language and literature. She likes to think of the classroom in much the same way as Pittsburgh writer Annie Dillard perceives the natural world: “Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”