by Alyson Grant
A 600-page government publication called The Quebec Education Program
landed on the desk of Concordias Early Childhood and Elementary
Education program (ECEE) this year.
The document outlines the mandate for child-based teaching in elementary
schools, but there was no need for ECEE to toss out its current curriculum
for preparing future teachers. Their philosophy and methods have always
been focussed on child-centred learning.
The government is now saying that we have to make schools more responsive
to the needs of young people, but the active learning shift to, or the
shift away from teacher-directed learning, happened a long time ago,
said Sara Weinberg, Director of Student Training for ECEE in the Department
of Education. Weve always taught our students to get involved
and plan activities with the children in mind.
What that comes down to for the 50 to 55 students out of the approximately
400 yearly applicants to the program is a rigorous four years of teacher
training that balance theory with practice. At the end of the program,
graduates are accredited to teach kindergarten through grade six.
ECEE students begin with core courses in sociology, philosophy and psychology,
all developmentally oriented, and have intensive placements at kindergartens
and elementary schools in each year of the program.
We have an excellent reputation in schools, Weinberg said.
Many teachers and principals tell us how well prepared our students
are, and we have lots of phone calls asking for them.
Leah Taylor, in her fourth year of ECEE, is an example of one of those
students. She was a bit intimidated the first time she went to an elementary
school because she hadnt been in one since she was an elementary
student herself. But the program prepared me well, she said.
The teachers taught me a lot, and the supervisor is always there
That supervisor is Weinberg. In addition to the administrative side of
finding placements for students final internships, she closely oversees
their progress and teaches seminars related to the internships. They
get a very intense experience, Weinberg said.
Brian Seltmann, an ECEE graduate now in his second year of an Educational
Technology Masters degree at Concordia, agreed. Its
a lot of hard work, but when we come out of ECEE we have a very good grasp
of childrens needs, in terms of writing lesson plans and teaching,
ECEEs teachers deserve much of the credit for their students
success and readiness for the field, Seltmann said. The core teachers
are great. They are always doing new research and theres always
a breadth of new knowledge.
Part of that new knowledge is how to incorporate technology into the classroom,
something The Quebec Education Program is also mandating. ECEE
has a required course on technology in the classroom, which both Taylor
and Seltmann praised.
Teachers already in the system may not have the technology skills younger
teachers do, however. After teaching for a year, Seltmann realized there
was a need for help in schools to make the transition to more technology-based
teaching, and he now has his own business which tries to address that
need. Computers are thrown into the class with idea that if you
put it in there, you will learn, he said. Its not that
easy, so were there to help.
Seltmann seems representative of the quality and energy of the people
ECEE produces. We really work hard and are a small but very effective
program, Weinberg said. We graduate teachers who are competent,
creative and caring.