George Mason University Program Trains Teachers for Increasing Classroom Diversity
Fairfax, Va.George Mason University has committed to a new kind of teacher training with a program that prepares teachers to work with the diversity of ages, races, ethnicity, languages and abilities that is prevalent in today’s typical classroom. The Unified Transformative Early Education Model stresses the importance of collaboration with families and communities in teaching children. These topics are integrated in the curriculum rather than being addressed with separate courses. Students who complete the program earn licensure in three areas — early childhood education, early childhood special education and English as a second language — thus eliminating the need for a separate teacher for each specialty. “A high percentage of teachers are teaching in areas where they are not licensed,” says Eva Thorp, co-director of UTEEM. “This program gives teachers much more confidence, a higher comfort level and competence in each area. Our students are used to working with the diversity, unlike graduates of most other teacher training programs.”One way the program accomplishes this is by creating partnerships between the university and community, with schools, agencies, medical facilities and families. Students are peppered with internship opportunities in these diverse settings from the beginning of the program to the end. A federally funded outgrowth of UTEEM addresses the mismatch between teacher and student demographics by recruiting males and ethnically diverse teachers. “We need to give kids people who understand their language,” says Thorp. “We need to let people know that teaching is an option as a profession — that we need them in teaching. It’s not just that we need more teachers, but that we need them trained in a different way — to better welcome children and families, and to work collaboratively in the community.”
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