- Bringing Project Based Learning to our Classroom - August 12, 2018
- Keep the Engagement Alive: Start the Year with Purpose - August 5, 2018
- It's Our Fault: A Teacher's Confession - March 18, 2018
- Keeping Your Teaching Real: A Teacher's Role - March 11, 2018
- Sketch Notes in the Elementary Classroom - February 15, 2017
- Teach From the Heart - February 9, 2017
- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
I am blessed to live in a small community just outside of a university town. With this comes the opportunity to have pre-service teachers in my classroom. While learning to teach, they are also my students. I have had the opportunity to work with early field students just beginning their educational work, students in their "block" classes beginning to teach their first lessons, and teacher interns on their last leg of their classroom experience. The scaffolding for each level is different, but they all need the experience and expertise of classroom teachers. We are the experts.
Early field experience provides an opportunity for college students to get one of their first inside looks at a classroom. They are crossing the barrier from being a student themselves just a couple of years back, to seeing the management, organization, planning, prep-work, paperwork side of teaching. Early field experience teachers come into the classroom to observe, as well as begin to interact with students in small group guided lessons. As a classroom teacher, I use these extra bodies to listen to students read, assist students who need guidance in staying on task or finishing projects, or to lead small groups after assignments have been given. With direct and specific instructions (making sure this is in check with the university expectations for their classwork) you can benefit from having extra eyes and ears in your room. Explain what student work should look like and how the early field student should help. This not only gives your students more support, it provides the college students with experience moving from that role of student to teacher.
The "block" students in our university setting are learning about the content areas and applying that knowledge with support. These students come into classrooms to observe, gather information and teach whole group lessons on content from class. Last week my block students dipped their toe into the water with a read aloud. Watching this process reminded me of everything we do when teaching. It is an art to keep students engaged, ask questions while continuing to move the story forward and read aloud to elementary children. After the experience, I provided meaningful feedback with specific words and examples to praise the strengths of the read aloud and provide some guidance on what to do differently next time. I am also mind fully providing the group with literature selections to read when they come. I want their books to connect to our lessons. Being organized is a huge necessity when working with pre-service teachers.
This group of "block" students will also jump into teaching this semester. With a language arts and science content block, I modeled how I teach vocabulary this week (such a huge part of any lesson) and they are going to group teach next week. Lesson plans are due on Monday the week of the lesson, but I requested they turn then in to me by Friday. I want to be able to give them meaningful feedback and know the best time for that will be over the weekend. I read through their lesson, added standards (they had one) that I know fit, asked questions to prompt their thinking about classroom management, organization and time management and sent it back with comments. While this is extra work, reflection is such a huge part of teaching and knowing how to guide them strengthens what I do.
The last step before you are thrown to the wolves, I mean get your own classroom, is teacher intern. Having a teacher intern is such a journey. You can read further about my experience last year in my series "Student Teacher Diaries". The responsibilities here go beyond checking a few lesson plans. I noticed my teaching shifted from planning and preparing to evaluating. I spent late nights giving feedback on lessons, but then during the school day I was able to observe not only my student intern but my students as well. I had time to organize and strengthen things I was already using while she took over teaching responsibilities. Looking at the learning happening enabled me to think about ways to push myself as a teacher and the things my students needed.
Learning never stops. Inviting and accepting pre-service teachers into your classroom allows you to reflect and strengthen your own craft. Being organized to have tasks ready, know what standards will be taught next week, and have references available to share is a necessity. You will also be able to model classroom management and demonstrate how to meet the needs of all learners to the teachers of tomorrow. It shifts your work load and pushes your thinking, but we don't learn if we become stagnant. If you have an opportunity to open your classroom to pre-service teachers say yes. Share your knowledge. Give back. You are the expert.