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September 1999

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Teachers Go To School

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation and its affiliates, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, provided teachers with opportunities to learn about new curriculum and its delivery. Thousands flocked to summer institutes.

By Margaret Wilson

Thousands of Ontario teachers spent part of the summer holiday taking courses to improve their ability to serve their students. This pattern of teacher attendance at "summer school" has been in place for many years, but this year there were some significant differences.

The Additional Qualification courses did swing into high gear as is usual in the summer. But teachers also flocked to numerous summer institutes developed by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and its affiliates, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. The response to these courses has been fantastic, with most courses filled immediately and long waiting lists.

These institutes responded to a need that teachers have identified as urgent for a long time – professional knowledge about new curriculum at both the elementary and secondary levels. Thousands of teachers gladly gave up their time to learn more about new curriculum and its delivery.

Congratulations to all who attended summer programs, to the many teachers involved in their delivery and in particular to the sponsors of new programs which responded in a timely way to a demonstrated need.

Just as thousands of teachers were eager to use personal time as study time this summer, I hope that many of you will look positively at associate teaching during this school year. While there is additional work involved in the fall, student teachers, as they develop their sea legs, do contribute and by spring can provide collegial assistance in the classroom.

I had not noticed the trend towards placing a single student with each associate and would like to suggest taking a pair of student teachers is often easier and provides more creative opportunities than the one-on-one situation.

When students are paired they learn by observation of each other as well as by observation of the experienced. They also provide emotional support and an additional source of ideas to each other when things do not go according to plan – and this will happen. While having two students may appear to be more demanding on the host teacher, my personal experience was that this was so only in the initial stages and that their ability to work co-operatively actually reduced some of the time and attention required.

Another arrangement for associate teaching involves a school or department taking shared responsibility. This has its attractions and provides the advantage of more varied placements. It does, however, require careful planning and co-operative assessment of the students’ progress.

Associate teachers have a critical role to play in ensuring that student teachers have the capacity to

manage a classroom and deliver the mandated curriculum completely. They must assess honestly whether or not an individual candidate has successfully demonstrated competence and, in addition, shows empathy for students and an understanding of their diverse needs.

Associate teachers are significant players in the evaluation of prospective teachers and in the question of whether or not a dean should recommend an individual for a licence to teach. The new video from the University of Western Ontario’s Althouse Press, Where It’s A.T. – Focus on the Associate Teacher, examines the role of the system’s most influential teacher educators through the eyes of associate teachers and teacher candidates. If you’re wondering whether this challenge is for you, you could order the video from

Our students deserve caring and competent graduates from Ontario’s faculties of education. When you agree to serve as an associate teacher you will have an opportunity to lay the foundation for the education of thousands of children over decades to come.

If you are ready for this demanding but rewarding role, talk to your department head or principal.