BCCL offers hands-on learning to teachers with no experience
As far as pilot programmes go, Cindy Corday believes hers is a win both for her school and the island’s education in general.
It offers Bermudian teachers who have a degree but do not have practical experience in the classroom the chance to spend a year being mentored at Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning, a private school for children who learn differently.
Teachers receive a monthly wage and health insurance. At the end of the programme they may be invited to join BCCL full-time or transfer their skills to another school if they wish.
Jennifer Doidge was the first to take up the offer. Armed with degrees in early childhood and primary education, she was excited by the opportunity to “expand her own teaching goals” and loved that the school took a holistic approach with students.
“My student teaching experiences were in traditional settings with 30 or more students in each class,” she said. “I noticed that each child didn’t get what they needed. They kind of just fell through the cracks because teachers didn’t pay attention to students’ social emotional learning, or understood that this was important. They only focused on academics.
“I’m not a strong believer in those types of settings. I believe in partnership, creativity, collaboration and I noticed that the schools I was exposed to in my teacher training didn’t have that. So when I returned to Bermuda I wanted a totally different experience from what I was exposed to.”
Ms Corday estimates that there could be as many as 1,800 students on the island – from preschool on up to Bermuda College – who require “learning support and an environment that meets their specific needs”. Six years ago she founded BCCL with Lindsey Sirju and Lisa Smart in an effort to provide just that. BCCL also offers support for families “who are faced with considerable stress to secure a place where their child can succeed”.
The mentor programme fell in line with their goal of creating more than just ‘a school’.
“The overall mission is to help education as a whole in Bermuda, to change the way that educators work with and support children and their families,” Ms Corday said. “All students, in every age level, want the same thing. They want to feel safe, they want to feel that their teachers genuinely care for them and they want to like school. I’ve learnt in my career that if you tie all of those together, it really does make a difference in how a child’s educational journey progresses.
“If any of those are missing, a student will have a tough time – especially those that have not been identified with a learning difference such as dyslexia. Knowing how to teach reading or the signs of dyslexia isn’t taught in most teaching-training programmes or, how speech and language therapy can benefit a student’s communication skills and reading and writing.”
It was a point that was reinforced while Ms Corday worked in the US, where she created and directed two schools. Based on that experience she was asked to teach a language arts course to university students after a teacher fell ill.
“Part of the course assignments were to observe teachers in various settings, and I thought students could benefit from exposure to our setting. What was eye-opening for me was that students kept coming back week after week saying that other schools had a very different feeling, their layout lacked a calm atmosphere, the schools had a strict academic approach. That was a real eye-opening experience for me that we (my school) in a somewhat rural setting, had changed to meet students needs but other schools had not. In my initial work in early childhood and now with primary and middle year students, I’ve learnt that what young children need still applies for students of all ages.”
Ms Doidge was assigned a mentor when she joined BCCL in September. Apart from her work in the classroom she has “been immersed in our teacher professional development learning how interventions work for students”; at daily staff meetings she learns about strategies that have worked with students as well as those that need improvement.
“I’ve learnt a lot of crucial skills in this programme,” she said. “I’ve been able to observe my mentor’s skills, which has also impacted my skills in classroom management, and [I’ve been shown] how to personalise learning with a focus on students’ social and emotional learning. I was never taught these during my school courses – which is wild to think about.
“I started off the year co-planning lessons with my mentor and observing her as she interacted with the students one-on-one and in groups, learning classroom management strategies…. After a few weeks I felt ready to lead small group math lessons. Gradually, my supervision has increased to leading students in other lessons during the day such as the units taught in the International Primary Curriculum and other experiences like mindfulness and yoga. I am currently observing my mentor as she leads students in Orton Gillingham phonics lessons and assisting her in readers’ and writers’ workshop and my goal is to lead these lessons by the end of the year.”
She believes the programme would be a good fit for any teacher with an open mind who is also willing to learn.
“I began the year willing to learn from other teachers. I think as long as you have an open mind and a passion for working with children that you can do it. BCCL has given me that experience to become the best teacher that I can be in a setting that I’m passionate about and enjoy working in.”
For more information visit bermudacreativelearning.com. For specific information on Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning’s Teacher Mentorship Programme send an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org