Student Teaching: What I’m Most Grateful For
Part student, part teacher. This awkward combination has been my life for the last 17 weeks. Not yet am I a certified teacher, but I am no longer the pupil behind the desk. However, this uncomfortable job description has not been as dreadful as I originally anticipated.
Actually, overall I’ve enjoyed my student teaching experience. Yes, I was placed in a good school with a good cooperating teacher and I teach good kids. This all helped to create an enjoyable experience. Out of all the visible factors this semester, there are five factors that truly made my experience a good one:
1. Second Semester
Before starting my student teaching, I asked a prior student teacher her advice. She said, “Take advantage of teaching second semester. The students already know the routines and there has already been so much established first semester by the cooperating teacher.” I really appreciate her advice because I have noticed the many classroom routines the students already know by heart. This is made my first real teaching experience easier.
Although I would have liked to see how my teacher established these routines during the first semester, I am confident I’ll be able to establish my own classroom routines this fall. But because the routines were already established, I had less to stress about in my first days student teaching.
I teach 35 miles south of my home, and I realize it may sound crazy to say that my commute was a factor that made student teaching better. Honestly? I absolutely loved my commute. Although I hated driving through town with all of the stop lights and slow drivers, the four lane highway that my commute primarily consists of was awesome. It also helped that the view was gorgeous, part plains and part wooded hills.
More than the miles, what I enjoyed most about my commute was space. I want to be a teacher for a long time and to avoid burnout I need to have a work life and a personal life separate from one another. Having 30 minutes to myself while driving to school gave me time to put my teacher “game face” on. I could prepare myself for the upcoming, hectic day of teaching. Moreover, I loved having 30 minutes to unwind after the school day. Those 30 minutes after school allowed me to leave my work south of town and transition into Kelsey.
This fall I will have a slightly longer commute to school. Although I am concerned the drive will get old (it’s not as pretty as the one I had while student teaching), I am excited to keep a distance between my work life and personal life. Besides, I need time to listen to my audio books!
3. Welcoming Community
I am lucky to have been placed in a school with dedicated teachers. A teacher in a small school must wear many hats: science teacher, gym teacher, volleyball coach, class sponsor, prom sponsor, etc. I’ve learned a lot about multi-tasking and multi-focusing from the teachers here. These teachers truly care about student success, and they were very willing to welcome me to the staff. I was accepted with my colleagues which made the experience more enjoyable. Plus, they organized a whole table of goodies on my last day!
4. One Placement
For secondary endorsements, my college divides the teacher intern experience into two 8-week placements, one for middle school and one for high school. Thankfully, being placed in a small K-12 school meant that I only had one placement for the semester. Although it was a bit crazy doing so many preps, I loved the opportunity to spend a whole semester at one place, getting to know the same students and teachers. Even though I don’t want to teach at a K-12 school, it was great for my student teaching experience.
5. Cooperating Teacher
I have heard horror stories about awful cooperating teachers. Because I had no idea what kind of teacher I’d get and how our working relationship would function, I was terrified after being placed. Fortunately, I had a good cooperating teacher. Although we have very different teaching philosophies and methods, she gave me some space to do my thing, which allowed me to start to develop my teaching persona. I was relieved because she didn’t force or expect me to teach like she does. Although teacher interns have no control over this, having a cooperating teacher who actually cooperates can make a world of difference. She even went all out on my last day of school which included an awesome breakfast spread: