What it Means to Be a Supervisor in a Professional Development School Context

One of my friends recently described her role as a supervisor and I thought it was particularly enlightening for describing the difficult yet important work that teacher educators do in the field as they engage as supervisors in the clinically-rich contexts of professional development schools.

"I see myself as a supervisor.  Someone to guide a novice teacher through their year of student teaching.  And by doing that I need to be a listener, I need to engage in the process with them, I need to understand what their thinking is, I need to understand what they, what they worry about, what, what are their fears and concerns about doing the work of teaching. I need to celebrate with them lots of little moments of success. I need to challenge them. I need to keep a sense of humor and keep perspective that it really is a process.  And keep my expectations reasonable, developmentally appropriate. I need to kind of just be there whenever they need a question answered, a concern expressed.  Like really just a support system in so many ways. But I think I also have to find the balance where I’m someone they can come to that they trust and can rely on. You might call that kind of person a friend, but I have to keep that professional line in the sand where I can’t be so much of a friend that it makes it difficult for me to then be able to engage in some difficult conversation about their practice because sometimes you have to say things that are going to be hard for them to hear. So that’s where the friend part is a little bit tricky. Although you should be able to tell your friend things that are hard, but it’s a different kind of friend. But that’s just the intern.  Then the mentor is kind of the same thing. I have to listen, respect their practice - recognize that just because someone teaches differently than I do does not mean that it’s inadequate or inferior. And I have to be available to the mentor in all those same ways.  They have concerns or you know they’re not sure of something or they want to run something just by me.  So, really it's kind of the same thing, but the only difference is I’m giving the intern constructive criticism and I'm not doing that with the mentor."

- A novice supervisor