P.E.I. school writing club teaches valuable lessons

A professor at UPEI is using an after-school writing club to give his bachelor of education students their first taste of teaching.

Students and student teachers learn from each other in after-school program

UPEI bachelor of education students got their first taste of teaching by working with Birchwood Intermediate students at an after-school writing club. (CBC/Nancy Russell)

A professor at UPEI is using an after-school writing club to give his bachelor of education students their first taste of teaching.

For the past five weeks, the teachers-in-training in Sean Wiebe's English Methods course have been teaming up with students at Birchwood Intermediate in Charlottetown.

The university students work in small groups with the young writers.

It has turned into a lesson in learning for everyone involved.

Frances Squire is a language arts teacher at Birchwood and coordinator of the writing club. 

She says she was pleasantly surprised when 28 students showed up for the club.

"It's an after school program and it's free," said Squire. "They're here because they like to write - not because I'm wrangling them in. They want to learn, they want to write. I find that quite exciting."

Squire says she also enjoyed watching the bachelor of education students get their first taste of teaching and their professor agrees.

"I was excited because it's an opportunity to experience the effect of teaching without maybe having 30 students all at once being your first time," said Wiebe, a professor in the bachelor of education program. 

 "I was also quite interested in the opportunity for students to develop a relationship around writing and mentoring another writer, a young writer."

Students on both sides gain

The bachelor of education students say they gained as much as their young counterparts.

An after-school writing club was a benefit to both students of Birchwood Intermediate and UPEI bachelor of education students. (CBC/Nancy Russell)

"Afterwards, we get to debrief as pre-service teachers, so we get to share things that we've noticed, challenges we might have come up against and then brainstorm together how we might overcome them, " said Louise Gullander-Drolet, who plans to teach English and social studies when she graduates.

"It's a little bit less overwhelming than seeing those 30 faces in front of you," said Gullander-Drolet. "So I think it's preparing us really well on a smaller scale."

Fellow student Kate Macneil agrees.

"I've learned a lot through the bachelor of education program but putting those learnings into practice has been so helpful for me,"  Macneil said. 

Grade 9 student Cecilia Roy attended the writing club. She has published stories online.

"I think I can write more fluently now and I can make it better for people to read," said Roy.

Haia Alzoubi is in Grade 7 and said being in the writing club was "so much fun".

She predicted her mentor, Kate Macneil, would do well in the classroom.

"She's so cool," said Alzoubi. "Yeah, she's a really good teacher."

Wiebe's students will take what they have learned into classrooms across P.E.I. later this month when they begin their practice teaching.

Both Wiebe and Squire hope to repeat the writing club at Birchwood next year.


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