Urban teacher residencies are reshaping teacher preparation in cities across the country. They are also providing new professional opportunities for teachers. The Academy for Urban School Leadership’s (AUSL) Chicago Teacher Residency program is providing opportunities for teachers to have an impact on teacher preparation while at the same time allowing them to continue teaching in the classroom. As a former mentor teacher with AUSL I have professionally benefited from the opportunity to support teachers new to the profession, while at the same time furthering developing my skills as a classroom teacher. In my current role as a Mentor-Resident Coach I now focus on developing, coaching, and supporting our resident and mentor teachers.
In AUSL’s nine elementary and high school training academies, resident teachers are paired and placed in a mentor teacher’s classroom. Mentor teachers not only teach their students, but also take on the additional responsibility for preparing and coaching two resident teachers who share the classroom with them for the school year. Mentor teachers work additional hours and are compensated for their time and added responsibilities. Being a mentor teacher has created a different career path for those who wish to stay in the classroom, but who are also committed to preparing teachers to be effective in the high need, Turnaround schools that AUSL manages for Chicago Public Schools.
Many of AUSL’s mentor teachers have worn their dual professional hats for a number of years. Although many have continued this work, some have decided (like myself) to take on other roles in our organization while still being embedded in a school. Eight of our nine Mentor-Resident Coaches who manage our training academies are former mentor teachers. Although I love my position as a Mentor-Resident Coach, I have often reflected that the one missing piece is the opportunity to teach students on a daily basis. Given the demands of my position, it is not possible, but AUSL is beginning to consider other hybrid roles that may exist for mentor teachers.
One of these hybrid roles is taking shape at the elementary training academy I manage. One of our mentor teachers spends the first half of her day teaching math to our 4th and 5th grade students. While she teaches, her resident teachers observe and take notes on her management and instructional strategies. During their preparation period, they discuss the lesson and the resident teachers have an opportunity to ask the mentor teacher questions. In the afternoon the mentor teacher provides STEM coaching and iPad support to other teachers at the school and at other schools in the AUSL network. The resident teachers take the lead on teaching the two afternoon classes. This allows the resident teachers to have ample opportunity to teach independently while benefiting from a mentor teacher assisting them with the lesson planning process and providing them feedback on their lesson. We use video and audio to allow the mentor teacher to see what took place while she was coaching other teachers in the building.
Urban teacher residency programs are providing teachers opportunities that expand their impact on the profession. This route for advancement allows them to continue their work with students, while at the same time sharing their expertise with a new generation of teachers. Urban teacher residency programs can also serve as spaces for mentor teachers to take on other hybrid roles, such as coaching beyond their classrooms.
Carrie Kamm is a mentor-resident coach with the Academy for Urban School Leadership’s Chicago Teacher Residency Program.
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