As some students cry and tell their parents they do not want to go to school on the first day, I found myself doing the same thing on the second day of school of my first year of teaching. My dad happened to be in town and needed my car, so there he was driving me to school like he had all those years ago. I sat in the passenger seat crying. I cried and told him teaching was too hard, and I didn't want to do it. At a stoplight he turned to me and said, "Molly, you have to go. This is your job now." I began to calm down and take deep breaths like I had guided a student to do so the day before. Teaching was my job. I had just spent the past four years studying to get to this point. But, really, no one and nothing could have truly prepared me for everything in education.
What was my experience like in my teacher preparation classes? Who creates the curriculum all teachers must go through? Do these people ever receive feedback from alumni after they have experienced their first years of teaching to see what could be improved?
No one asked me, but here are a few thoughts:
- Student teaching could be an entire year. Yes, I know it seems silly to pay to work, but I believe student teachers miss out on key elements of classroom set up. I was a student teacher in a 1st/2nd grade in the spring. Sure, it was great because all the students knew the routine, and they were academic risk takers. Talk about false advertising. It was not like that for me the following August (hence the crying episode.) I didn't know what to do on the first day. How do you teach rules? What do you mean you don't know how to write the date? By student teaching the entire year, it allows the opportunity to experience much of what to expect when teaching on your own.
- Include a required class about working with families in teacher preparation classes. No one ever mentioned working with parents. Seriously. I must say this was the most difficult part of my first years of teaching. I started my second year of teaching at a new, well-known school. I had just adopted a class from the recently retired 30 year veteran teacher everyone loved and thought they were going to get. I did not adopt the love. The parents were brutal. I received support from my principal and colleagues, but felt blindsided. Any conversation or class regarding how to effectively communicate with families would have been beneficial. Over the years many teachers have shared the same experience.
- Teacher education should continue. Initially I thought teacher prep classes should begin sophomore year, and then I thought back to what I was like my sophomore year so, No. Instead education should continue after graduating whether as classes offered to enhance understanding in a particular academic area, an interest that can be shared in the classroom, or courses for an advanced degree. I know it gets said a lot, but we should model lifelong learning.
I very much value my undergraduate education and believe I received good training. Was best practice always in effect at the university level? I remember one professor said she didn't like children so she moved up to higher education. Encouraging. But, then I met a difference maker during my elementary math class who said my job as an educator was to help students see and experience the real world.
What suggestions do you have for improvement?