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The Bank Street Difference: Supervised Fieldwork/Advisement

Posted by Elisabeth Jakab on February 13, 2012

"I can't overemphasize how beneficial it is—Supervised Fieldwork/Advisement," says Associate Student Trustee, Liz Gordon '12 (VIDEO). "You can talk theory all you want, but it goes out the window when you are new in the classroom and there’s a lot of pressure. That’s where SF/A comes in.”

Supervised Fieldwork/Advisement consists of a two-hour, weekly conference group of five to seven students facilitated by the students’ faculty advisor who also observes the students in their field sites, usually once a month, and meets with them individually twice a month. Particulars vary depending on a student’s specific program, but SF/A is typically a two-semester experience.

SF/A: Uniquely Bank Street

Nancy Gropper, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, stresses that Supervised Fieldwork/Advisement provides highly individualized support and mentoring. She says, “Students take courses at the same time they are having supervised fieldwork, not courses first and fieldwork later. Our aim is to create a synergy between graduate course content and work in the field. Then, in their conference group, students learn that teaching is a collaborative profession: that you can turn to peers for support and guidance. It is very open-ended; advisees come in with problems and they all put their heads together about ways to address them.”

SF/A: In Action 

In her first student-teaching job in 4th grade in a public school, Gordon felt ill at ease with the head teacher and nervous about getting the students to relate to her. “My advisor and the group helped me get rid of that negativity, so I could really teach,” she says.

“It’s an amazing process,” concurs Leigh Anne Keichline ’12, who taught 1st and 4th grades in a public school. “Beginning our careers, we are going it alone, but in the conference group you could get help on anything: curriculum, classroom management, challenging students, lessons plans. To have a full year of this was invaluable.“

“I loved it. I needed a lot of help,” says Christina Denardo ’12, who taught in a public school in her SF/A year, first 3rd grade, then 5th grade. “Forty percent of my students had some sort of disability. It was a real challenge. My advisor came to watch me work, then we talked about what I wanted to do and what was really happening. It helped a lot. And in the group, it was great to toss ideas at colleagues and unload after a rough day. We all were going through the same things, and we gave each other advice.”

CathleenWiggins ’92, Director of the LeadershipinTechnologyandtheArtsProgram, and currently an SF/A advisor, “also had the privilege of being advised,” she says. “As an advisee, I couldn’t believe I got to have this time devoted to me and the other group members, with no pressure to perform, that this was our time to be reflective and to learn from each other. As a SF/A advisor, I have come to realize just how remarkable the process is, and how we rely on it to put all the pieces together, that it is in this complex interchange and interaction that growth happens.” 

SF/A: Origins

Supervised Fieldwork/Advisement at Bank Street evolved in the 1940s as enrollment greatly increased and student-teachers worked at many different kinds of schools, including some that did not subscribe to the methods and child-development principles they had been taught. In the 1950s, an Advisement group for advisors was initiated. Says Wiggins, “It’s wonderful to meet monthly and discuss our concerns and successes about our advisees.”  

“Supervised Fieldwork/Advisement sets Bank Street apart,” says Liz Gordon. “It is one reason why Bank Street teachers are different. You can always tell a Bank Street teacher from the way we talk to kids, and the way we approach teaching. We become teachers in order to make a difference, to help bring about a better world, just as it says in our mission statement.” 

tagged: graduate school, supervised fieldwork, supervised fieldwork advisement