When you’re eight years old, online schooling is no picnic. You can’t hang out with friends at recess, for example. And getting extra help in a large class can be tricky.
When you’re a teacher candidate, online teaching isn’t easy either. You don’t see the inside of a classroom. And there’s little time to get to know each students’ strengths and struggles.
That’s why Grade 3 pupil Taryn Mackay and teacher candidate Kajal Patel thrive on their weekly online tutoring sessions.
In an initiative that may be unique to Western, 150 teacher candidates are now tutoring more than 300 students, the children of faculty and staff, in a partnership that benefits everyone.
Parents also benefit
“Both my husband and I work from home right now and, we’re trying to be great at everything all at once – great parents, great teachers and great at our jobs,” said Taryn’s mother, Crystal Mackay, senior media relations officer at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “With Kajal working with Taryn, she gets that extra one-on-one time, with someone who is not her mom or dad.”
Teacher candidates, who are students finishing their first or second year of their Bachelor of Education degree, tutor students individually from Grades 1 to 12 for an hour every week. Some tutors help as many as three students, one at a time.
The teacher candidates are paid by Western human resources and receive academic credit for alternative field experience. The program runs until mid-June.
Soon after the pandemic was declared in March 2020, teacher candidates lent their expertise to offer online help to students from the broader London community.
This year’s idea to work with families of Western faculty and staff evolved from concept to first tutoring sessions within two weeks, said Katelyn Mentone, program co-ordinator of teacher education at the Faculty of Education.
Elana Whelan, senior human resources consultant, said Western HR has aimed to support faculty and staff families throughout the pandemic. “So when online learning came up again – now for the third time – we were quite attuned to how this may affect Western families.”
About a dozen people were involved in bringing the program to fruition.
For Patel, who lives in Markham, it’s been an important way to connect with the community.
Aiming to teach primary/junior kids, she has weekly individual tutoring sessions with three Grade 3 pupils. “I feel like it’s an ideal age and I’m loving it,” she said.
In their first session, Patel learned Taryn likes space stories, and she designed reading and writing lessons around that theme.
Taryn said the personalized help once a week has been great, even though it extends her school day. “Sometimes when there are lots of people on the call and they’re making faces into the camera or changing their background, I get distracted and lose focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. But when it’s just me and Kajal, I can focus better.”
Mentone and Whelan said feedback from teacher candidates, pupils, faculty and staff alike has been universally positive.
Everyone wins, said Kathy Hibbert, associate dean (teacher education) in the Faculty of Education.
“Teacher candidates are able to gain valuable experience working with students, while staff and faculty with children are able to receive supports for managing learning from home. Since this initiative was launched, I have received countless emails from grateful staff and faculty expressing their joy and relief at having some one-to-one support for their children. Even teachers will tell you that teaching your own children is challenging at the best of times,” Hibbert said.
The pandemic has challenged everyone to gather, work, socialize and learn differently, she said. “I have never been more proud to be part of Western than in this past year – when I have witnessed faculty, staff and senior leadership prioritize student and staff well-being. This partnership between Western Human Resources and the Faculty of Education is a beautiful example of this.”