What an amazing practicum. To be brutally honest I was dreading the 9 weeks of teaching but it turns out that I was set up with an amazing mentor teacher with whom I bonded easily. She is this gem of a teacher who instantly takes students who are willing to learn under her wing. She didn’t give me too much work too early and she was also extremely helpful whenever I seemed to have a heavy workload. Unless I protested she would instantly start marking tests for me, which was a huge help for me. She allowed me to try new things with the students such as different test types (primarily getting used to scantron sheets), and learning faster marking methods. I learned the scantron machine is a liar and had to re-mark 70 tests by hand. I learned scantron sheets are actually amazingly easy to mark by hand if you use a transparency with the answers blotted out.
I came to enjoy the class normally known as the trouble-makers and found that even though I was hard on many of them they still greeted me in the hall and gave me big hugs when I left – more so than the classes that I was more lenient with.
I learned that teaching is a delicate art – knowing when to do certain things, how to phrase specific statements and when to give tough love – all in the name of helping students to become mature and resourceful adults.
I think the tough love was the hardest thing for me to learn. I so badly wanted to tell so many students that it was ok they forgot that there was a quiz today, they could write it tomorrow. But I learned that no matter how much time you give a student, they will still be as ready as if you didn’t give extra time. Many students don’t take advantage of knowing about tests/quizzes beforehand. Many walk in and discover the quiz despite me telling them a week ahead and reminding them before the weekend, and sending a text reminder on Sunday afternoon. I had to learn that there is nothing more I can do to help them but let them suffer the consequences of having to write a quiz without studying beforehand. Experience is the best teacher and I had to realize and hope that their uncomfortable experience with that quiz would teach them to be better prepared.
My mentor teacher was so wonderful. I had heard negative things from her students but I know that they just don’t value her tough love and that those students just want an easy ride. They will find that to be successful in future endeavors they will need to put in the same effort as to be successful in my mentor teacher’s class. Students who put the work in and succeeded also seemed to be proud of their work.
I am both excited and nervous about being a new teacher. I have heard that the first few years are an uphill struggle during which many fail and choose a new career. I am afraid of that happening due to the fact that this was my second career choice and I am financially unable to try another career path. I loved interacting with students and other teachers and I also loved watching the students perform or show off their knowledge and hard work. But being a student-teacher was hard hard work. I have never worked so hard in my life to get things marked, make lesson plans, create lectures, make new assignments, input marks, input attendance, etc. I just felt that I worked my buns off and sometimes even when I thought I was covering all my bases on lessons I would find huge gaping holes when teaching. I did learn one very important thing, however, and that is priority. I believe that by learning to prioritize things I was able to almost tread water. I prioritized getting lectures and lesson plans done and out of the way so that during the week I could focus on marking and getting student work back. And by realizing that all humans have different priorities I was better able to understand why some students would skip my class to get other assignments done. Informing students of priorities also helped to make the picture clearer for them if they were trying to make an important decision.
All in all, it was a 9-week whirlwind. At week 2 I felt like I had been there as a student-teacher for years and then at week 9 I was so exhausted and ready for a break that I almost didn’t know what to do with myself when I did have one.