The Belmont Day School Associate Teacher Program combines a ten-month classroom apprenticeship with a full year of graduate study. The academic portion of the program typically spans 14 months, beginning the summer before associates begin their classroom placements, and culminating with a master's degree in either early childhood education or elementary education. Lesley University's program offers flexibility in the timing of courses; some students complete their degrees in May, while others continue their courses into the second summer of the program.
Each graduate course represents three credits, with the exception of the practicum in the spring (a six-credit course) and Sheltered English Instruction (a four-credit course). The early childhood program requires 39 credits of coursework; the elementary program requires 36 credits. All students complete 18 credits of their work on campus at Lesley. The rest of their courses are taught at Belmont Day School. Coursework includes classes in all academic subjects, as well as developmental psychology, special education, multicultural education, and foundations and theories of teaching.
Lesley's on-campus classes are held once a week, in the late afternoon or evening, or in an intensive weekend format. Most students enroll in one or two courses on campus each semester, going to the nearby Lesley campus in Cambridge at the end of the day. The drive from Belmont Day to Lesley is approximately 15 minutes.
Courses at Belmont Day School are designed to encourage associates to connect their observations and experiences in the classroom with the theories and texts that influence our work. Assignments focus on curriculum planning, observation of students and teachers, reflection and discussion of important issues, and collaboration with faculty.
Each associate teacher completes two semester-long placements. The first placement begins during opening meetings in August and extends through mid-January. The second placement—the practicum—begins in late January. This timing aligns with the University calendar and is planned in accordance with state regulations for student-teacher field placements. The format of the associate teacher program is partially dictated by the teacher licensure requirements of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In order to comply fully with these obligations, associate teachers engage in observations, lessons, and activities within and outside of their placement classrooms.
Both mentor teachers and the program coordinator conduct formal observations, meetings, and evaluations of associates during each placement. These opportunities provide a structured time for the group to discuss goals for the associate’s development as a teacher and assess growth and performance. In addition, the program coordinator makes regular visits to all classrooms where associate teachers are assigned to ensure that the program director is familiar with each classroom, that the associates are at ease when the program director is in the room, and to create a comfort level so that the associates are less anxious during formal observations.