by Jasmin Bey Cowin, EdD
Assistant Professor and Practicum Coordinator
TESOL and Bilingual Department
Graduate School of Education
Vice President, Chair Elect 2021, NYS TESOL organization
New York, USA
As an assistant professor and practicum coordinator in the Graduate School of Education at Touro College, my focus is on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), guiding prekindergarten through Grade 12 teachers certified in New York State to develop the professional skillsets needed to effectively teach and communicate with diverse student populations. My goal is that teachers not only acquire teaching methodologies in second language acquisition but also understand that language is the carrier of the intangible heritage of each nation.
Touro College’s Graduate School of Education embodies “Leading and Learning From Praxis: Serving With Compassion.” I strive to meet this aim by meeting teacher candidates where they are and mentoring them throughout their individual educational journeys. There are days when my teacher candidates need emotional support more than a piece of information. When I can connect on an emotional level, for example by providing support when a candidate has missed a deadline because of a family emergency, it is more likely that candidates will listen to my counsel and take my advice to heart. Tim Loreman states in Love as Pedagogy, “Pedagogy, then, is the employment of methods of teaching and learning that are directed towards an end goal as part of a broader education. When one speaks of love as pedagogy, one is referring to the use of love in teaching and learning to attain mutually desirable ends. Activity is purposeful, and takes place against the backdrop of love” (p. 20).
Teacher candidates need mentors, not just advisors. Mentoring is an ancient concept. The original mentor was described by Homer as the “wise and trusted counselor” whom Odysseus left in charge of his household during his travels. Athena, in the guise of mentor, became the guardian and teacher of Odysseus’s son Telemachus. Today mentoring can be found in virtually every forum of learning. In academia, the word mentor is often used synonymously with faculty advisor. However, there is an essential difference between mentoring and advising. Mentoring is a personal as well as professional relationship. In a 1990 speech to the Western Association of Graduate Schools, Morris Zelditch succinctly summarized a mentor’s multiple roles: “Mentors are advisors, people with career experience willing to share their knowledge; supporters, people who give emotional and moral encouragement; tutors, people who give specific feedback on one’s performance; masters, in the sense of employers to whom one is apprenticed; sponsors, sources of information about and aid in obtaining opportunities; models, of identity, of the kind of person one should be to be an academic” (Gaffney, 1995, p. 1).
To serve with compassion through mentoring, I ensure that my course assignments become vehicles for growth, reflection, and the opportunity to learn from robust, constructive feedback. To achieve this, I break down complex tasks and turn them into achievable goals with clear deliverables. In my experience, teacher candidates rarely achieve phenomenal papers or projects. It is in the space between submissions that performance increases exponentially. I help candidates improve their performance by giving detailed feedback, using objective rubrics, and investing personal time through mentoring and coaching with kindness. Investing in and providing encouragement to teacher candidates really models what effective teachers do in their own classrooms.
Classroom teachers have power in their classrooms beyond teaching content or skills. Teachers are also in charge of their personal mindset with which they treat their students. The lens through which teachers view their classrooms colors the relationships they build and how they engage their students in practical, day-to-day realities. Apart from being masters of their subject, effective teachers have a positive attitude, expect their students to succeed, use praise authentically, and practice in their own classroom teaching as an act of love. For more information, visit https://drcowinj-locationindependentteach.com/2019/09/10/teaching-as-an-act-of-love-by-prof-jasmin-bey-cowin-ed-d/.