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Step up to the chalkboard

At Park City High School, the line between student and teacher has blended.

In many of the classes on campus, a program called Instructional Teaching Assistants allows qualified and responsible students to take an active role in teaching classes. Although the school regularly involves teaching assistants in classes, the Instructional Teaching Assistants program demands more from the participating student.

During its inception, concerns arose that the class would become a free grade, a glorified study hall. But, Jennifer King and her predecessors as coordinators of the program went to great lengths to ensure that both the grading rubric and the expectations for students in the program remained high.

Not all students are eligible for the program. Only students recommended by teachers are allowed to instruct. Generally, only students who have excelled in certain subjects are selected as ITAs. Every grade has at least one representative in the ITA program, but the bulk are juniors and seniors.

Most importantly, though, students have to demonstrate a degree of maturity. In some instances students are asked to teach others of the same age and grade, a situation that can place a lot of stress on ITA. These students must be able to act professionally and not share information relevant to grades or tests with peers. For a socially active high schooler, this can be very challenging.

Even if a student survives that social rigor, he or she still must contend with the requirements for the program. ITAs are expected to have near perfect attendance over the course of the semester and to assist instruction at every class. As some classes can run in high numbers, this extra instructor allows for more face time for students.

ITAs are also expected to lead the class twice during the year. This means that a student has to prepare a lecture and present those speaking points for the entirety of a class period. Forgetting for a moment the possible social awkwardness of that situation, leading a class can be very hard. Since ITAs are graded on their ability to teach the class, they do everything in their power to keep the teachers uninvolved in their lecture.

Two or more times during the quarter ITAs are asked to write journal entries that detail their experiences and their feelings about their work. Although not all the students enrolled in the program professed an interest in teaching as a career choice, they are all learning some of the finer and uglier points of the craft. Their journals, upon which Jennifer King comments and sends advice, back to the student, acts as both a way to record their experiences and vent their frustrations. Much of King’s advice is designed to help students get through their teaching problems and struggles.

According to King, their personal growth may be the most important aspect of the class. "The (personal) growth is amazing," King said of the ITA’s maturation progress in the program. If nothing else, the students leave their instructional periods as much better public speakers and with a much more developed sense of leadership.

ITAs instruct a wide range of classes from Advanced Placement courses to special education units. Most students elect to be ITAs for a year, but some enjoy the program so much that they register for more than one year.


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