I did not have a quarter of Practicum, which consists of being in a classroom and helping out all quarter long. This allows for a chance to get to know the structure of school days, how groups work, curriculum types for different subjects, planning, watching a teacher teach, etc.
When I was going into Student Teaching (notice the capitals: I consider it that important), I expected it to be somewhat challenging. I thought it may be somewhat of a juggling act, with planning the lesson, managing the students, and copying papers. Or something to that effect.
Then, I began the Student Teaching experience. Turns out that there is much more that is expected from a teacher. Making copies and creating worksheets (morning work & math packets & back of quizzes) is something that is an in-between filler. Managing kids is much more difficult when there are at least 2 dozen of them. First graders are full of energy all day long, so each lesson must be quick, concise, and interesting. Oh, and they must be learning because the assessments and quizzes will be entered into their records and shared with parents at the conferences. Each student is a different learner. A good portion of kids will grasp material, but the rest will need a different approach. But because there is never enough time, one must plug in those differentiation strategies right into the lesson, or think of it ahead, or remember to use it at some point so all kids will have an equal opportunity to learn the material. Pacing is huge! I could attempt to explain a lesson and would lose them because I ended up talking for too long. Understanding the signals they’re sending me when I’ve lost them is not an easy task. Kids who are misbehaving to get attention need quick reprimands. If I spend an extra few seconds showing them attention, the other kids were waiting without clear instruction and then they get distracted. So then I need to bring everybody back to the topic. Being very strict isn’t super effective either. Kids need smiley people, who care about them and make learning fun. Kids at this age are super sensitive, so there are constant disagreements that must be resolved. Some kids need encouraging words in just the right time, otherwise they will space out throughout the assignment.
I have mastered the art of preparing for lessons. Except that there is so much more than just that. Those factors can be in place, but the 24 factors that could be different every minute of every day is definitely something else. I need to think on my feet constantly: what is the objective of the lesson I’m teaching? There is no point for me to prolong a class discussion if the kids aren’t getting anything out of it. There is a fine line of when I say something, compared to when I want kids to share, compared to when I want them to hear others sharing ideas. My template for lessons has become a detailed breakdown of what I say or do –> what I want kids to say or do, and exactly how will I be assessing whether the objective has been met. Then, a student may say something, and it is such a perfect teaching opportunity that I should jump on it! But oftentimes I am so concerned with following my “script” that I miss those points.
The final challenge that is constantly there is the extra set of eyes. Having a supervisor or principal observe you is intimidating. Having a cooperating teacher who went to Harvard and has “positives/things to work on” list for me daily doesn’t make it easier. It helps me, yes, but it makes me feel a lot more self-conscience than when I have the classroom to myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the challenge of student teaching. It’s just not quite what I expected. 🙂