Preparing teacher candidates outside the classroom

By: Gerry Rucchin
June 5, 2018

The Boys and Girls Club of London is a host organization for Western Education’s Alternative Field Experience.

The Boys and Girls Club of London is a host organization for Western Education’s Alternative Field Experience.

Teachers have marketable skills for jobs outside the education system. While these transferrable skills may not be easily recognized, it’s the Alternative Field Experience (AFE) that’s providing teacher candidates and organizations with this knowledge.

The AFE shows teacher candidates that education touches many areas, including organizations that aren’t associated with the school system, said Program Coordinator for the Bachelor of Education program, Rebecca Horeth.

“What’s important with community partnerships is drawing connections between a Bachelor of Education degree and the transferable skills it provides,” said Horeth. “The community can see the Faculty of Education is really all around us and we’re not just putting people into schools.”

Western Education established the AFE to help their teacher candidates stand out from competing faculties of education. Horeth said the AFE increases teacher candidates’ marketability because they showcase their skills and they get hands-on experience with job applications as they have to apply to organizations for their placement. Teacher candidates also develop soft skills, such as networking and making cold calls when finding their placements. All of these skills help teacher candidates who want careers outside the classroom.

“Teacher candidates have all these transferable skills that they practiced in different settings. A BEd is great for a lot of different things,” said Horeth.

Establishing community partnerships is essential for the AFE’s success. In some cases, organizations contact Western Education to see if teacher candidates want to volunteer for their organization, which in some cases become an AFE. Other times, the faculty recruit organizations into the AFE program, said Horeth.

The Boys and Girls Club of London is one community partner that’s participating in the AFE. Manager of Program Services for the Boys and Girls Club, Arden McClean, said the club is participating because the AFE aligns with their education priorities. In particular, the Boys and Girls Club offers a program, My Action Plan to Education, which provides tutoring on academics, sessions related to social-emotional learning as well as recreation.

“We’re always looking for people who are interested in contributing to curriculum development, to providing one-to-one support for children who require more educational support,” said McClean.

While the AFE’s goal is to help teacher candidates develop or enhance their skills, the AFE also benefits the community partner. McClean said the Boys and Girls Club learned from the teacher candidates’ experiences because they bring insights based on theory and from their previous practicums.

The partnership between the Faculty of Education and the Boys and Girls Club has been so successful that they’re developing a pilot project on bringing the My Action Plan to Education right into the schools and students will be invited to be significant contributors to the development of this project.

Besides being placed in community organizations, the AFE also allows teacher candidates to be placed in schools if they want experience teaching grades they aren’t specializing in. This opportunity provides them with a better understanding of their students when they teach their specialization, said Horeth. She added teacher candidates can also use the AFE to work in different departments, such as English as a Second Language, special education or with subject coordinators. These experiences provide teacher candidates with a well-rounded picture about education.

In order to complete their degree, teacher candidates participate in two alternative field experiences during their second year. The first experience is three weeks that occurs in the fall term while a four-week experience occurs at the end of the winter term.

Horeth has first-hand knowledge with the AFE as a Western Education graduate. She declared that without her AFE placement, she wouldn’t be in the job that she’s in today.

“Every single day of my career, I see the value of this and I’m so grateful for the organization that hosted me.”