- Social Emotional Learning: Can It Help Our Most Vulnerable Students? - August 27, 2017
- Why We Should Teach Meditation in the Classroom - November 8, 2016
- Strike! - October 5, 2016
- Teaching a Superpower - September 22, 2016
- Essentially, I am a Teacher - August 30, 2016
- A Chicago Teacher's Dream - January 22, 2016
- A Career in Crisis - August 27, 2015
- Classroom Community and Rock-Paper-Scisssors - July 22, 2015
- The Art of Teaching - June 22, 2015
- Parent tip: Beyond Sounding It Out - June 4, 2015
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Most years, I had at least one student teacher in my second grade classroom. One of the joys of teaching in a large school system that student teachers come abound if your school has been noticed by education programs. Our school had dozens of student teachers each year. I primarily worked with one program that specialized in early childhood education, and which had their students spend a year in the classroom. I also had students from at least seven other teacher education programs. Most of these women and men were awesome.
Our school was an exciting place to student teach because we were a creative bunch of teachers who tried to stay in the forefront of education. It gave the learning teachers a chance to try new things. It also might have been a terrible place to student teach as they would have a hard time finding a school as accommodating to individual teachers.
Teaching requires dedication and a certain selflessness that cannot really be taught. It was the technique and interpretation, not just reading the script, that makes or breaks a teacher. Supervising student teachers made me much more reflective of my own technique because I became aware of myself as a role model.
I modeled patience with children such as the boys spinning in a circle on the floor. This meant I also modeled deep breathing, counting to ten, and a sense of humor. This is because I knew that boys listen better when they are moving. It requires a lot of focus to sit still which doesn’t allow listening to math lessons. It reminded me that movement, as long as it wasn’t distracting others, was helping him absorb what I was teaching. Did it make me nuts? You bet! That, however, was my problem, not his.
I modeled relaxing and taking everything in stride. A case in point was the day a student teacher and I were sitting on the hard, smooth, dark blue second grade chairs watching the class present projects. I bent to pick something up off the floor. As I leaned forward, the chair went backwards. I could feel it happening. Slowly but steadily the chair slid until with a loud bump, I was on the floor. I was a rattled but I picked myself up and we went back to work. I had modeled the lesson of letting things go and of moving on with aplomb.
I modeled reevaluating a lesson on the spot that is failing even (or especially) if it is written in a script. If you hold onto a teacher’s manual as if it were Moses’ tablets and the most well behaved children begin goofing around, it’s frustrating because you know they are not learning. You need to put that stupid script down and modify. Not later, but now. The person who wrote that script has no idea of the personalities in your classroom. You do.
I modeled listening to the students with my ears, eyes, and heart. To be the best learners possible, they need to know you understand who they are. This means stopping what you are doing, whether it is writing antidotals, taking attendance, or trying to sneak a bite of lunch and listen. It means looking them in the eye while they talk. It means digging to find out the problem. Some days it felt as all I did was listen and we didn’t get any work done. It reality, by listening we got twice as much learning done because my class knew I had their backs. They would try things and not worry about failing until they got it right. It made it a safe classroom. There is a beautiful balance between frustration and the intake a breath that goes with the “aha” moment.
I modeled many tricks of classroom management, of assessment, of writing lesson plans, and of adapting on the run. Then, I happily taught these young up-and-coming teachers to laugh. Laugh at what went wrong that day. Laugh at the frustrating moments. Laugh when a child tells you he dreams in French or draws the Gettysburg Address as a pizza party. If a child draws a mustache in marker on her face that is so elaborate that it is a shame to make her wash it off, try to hold the laugh until afterschool, but still laugh until you cry about it later. Most importantly, laugh with your students because laughter brings enthusiastic learning.
What I hoped I modeled the best was summed up by my quietest student teacher who now has her Ph.D. in early childhood education. She told me what I taught her, and she now tries to instill in her education students, is that “teaching is essentially joyful work. It sustains you not just during the ups and downs that inevitably come in the course of the classroom year, but in your own life as well.”
Each student teacher was different. My job was to find what their strengths were and polish those while building up what they were lacking. I had high expectations but I was also relaxed. I had difficult heart-to-heart conversations with the ones who weren’t cutting it, trying to help them evaluate what they wanted for their future. I worked with them and their programs to help them assess how they we going to move forward.
I know these young teachers -- nearly all were young enough to be my child -- didn’t always agree with me. That was fine. In fact, that was great. It gave them a minute to try their better way. I let them. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. They taught me new lessons and new concepts. They reminded me to be the best I could be, sometime even verbally. When I voiced my frustration with a child, one once pointed to my hand-written sign that read “Everyone wants to do their best.” She made me sigh out-loud and then go back to the drawing board to find a solution. In many ways they became my teachers.
I dropped them into the lions’ den, pulled them out slightly chewed, patched their wounds, gave advice on how to keep the lions at bay and dropped them right back in. Day after day. Most of them were ready to tame their own lions when they left. Most of them are still taming lions. Most of them still have a trick or two of mine which they pull out of their sleeves when the occasion calls for it. They have found the sustaining joy of being a teacher.
There are several who stuck with me a whole year or a whole life. They were my “kids” just as the seven and eight year olds were. Even better, they became precious friends. I hope I taught them to be tough, outspoken, and joyfully quirky teachers. We need more of them.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]