Student teaching is the final hoorah of all teacher prep programs. You work and work and work at your studies and then the big day comes when you are placed in a classroom with a mentor teacher so you can learn and grow as a professional.
Sometimes the placement is AWESOME, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes your university supervisor is AWESOME, and sometimes, not so much. Whichever circumstance you find yourself in, you CAN learn from it. You can learn what to do and what NOT to do.
I (Wendy) was placed in a 4th grade classroom in Worthington, MN. I purposely asked to be placed there to escape a certain professor/university supervisor. I naively thought he wouldn’t travel that far from SSU to supervise anyone. To my chagrin, this supervisor ended up being mine. I was a nervous wreck!
As I look back on this experience over 30 years ago, it was the BEST experience of my life! My classroom mentor in that 4th grade classroom was Paula Krekelberg. Can we say DYNAMIC teacher? Passion, energy, enthusiasm, creativity…all in one package! Lucky me!
She was the 1986 female version of Dave Burgess before #tlap even existed. She was phenomenal, and I became a Paula Krekelberg. I begged and borrowed and tweaked ALL of her teaching ideas, plus her teaching style and teaching philosophy.
Gingerbread House Day in December is still one of my favorite memories from Paula’s classroom. She collected milk cartons, graham crackers, and candy galore then invited parents in to make Gingerbread Houses with their kids. I started the Gingerbread House tradition in my first 3rd grade teaching position at Brown Elementary. I no longer teach there, but the Gingerbread House tradition still prevails…over 30 years later.
Thank you, Paula, for being the best mentor teacher ever.
The gentleman who was my university supervisor was also one of my professors at SSU. He wasn’t one of my favorite professors because he intimidated me. 😮 So when I found out he was my supervisor, I was deflated…and a lot scared.
Lesson learned…he was the BEST supervisor I could have wished for. His personality was slightly different as a supervisor than it was as the professor. I adored him as my supervisor, and he gave me so many helpful hints after he would watch me teach a lesson. Forgive me, Lowell, for misjudging.
I’ll never forget the first time he came to watch me teach, I was over prepared. My plan was to knock his socks off with my awesome teaching skills. Well, needless to say, the lesson bombed. As I cried through our conversation afterwards, he kindly said to me… “Wendy, it was a good lesson. You just forgot to give them your expectations.” It was that simple. From that day forward, I always share my expectations of my students with my students about EVERYTHING.
Thank you, Lowell, for being the best supervisor ever. 🙂
My student teaching experiences were much the same… I (Sonya) had wonderful days and days that I cried to cope. I just did not understand why those cute little kindergarten kids could not tie their shoes. I mean – I built them a rainforest fort to go along with the literacy unit I was teaching. How could that not impact their motivation to successfully tie their shoes?! My awesome classroom mentor, Lynn Robertson, very kindly and gently helped me see the error in my novice ways and that the children were simply not all developmentally ready for my expectations. Keep in mind – this was kindergarten over 20 years ago – so a much different place in a crayon-centered world. Thank you, Mrs. R.! I am grateful for your guidance.
After my feelings of failure in kindergarten, I moved into the 5th grade for the second part of my student teaching experience, and there – I found my people. My classroom mentor, Deb Krimm, and the students taught me so much. I can picture my desk. I can picture Mrs. K.’s smile and her outfits. (After all – I was trying out my new teacher clothes and style so I took notes!) I can picture the room. I can picture lunch duty in my brown plaid jacket that made me feel like a teacher. (Never underestimate the power of a great suit …professional attire that our teacher candidates LOVE …or maybe hate?) I will never forget learning to make wax candles, soap, butter, and more for the 13 colonies unit the night before my students, and being so excited for all the learning that went into it – for me… for my learners. I am grateful for that.
My university supervisor’s name escapes me…I want to say “Jan….” (Clearly Dr. Wendy’s memory is better than mine! I would search it up in my files on my floppy disks, but I am aiming to meet a strict professor’s deadline – aka my blogging partner-in-crime, Dr. Wendy.) 😉 Please don’t mistake my error of name-filing for lack of impact. I can clearly picture her in my mind, and more importantly, I can still hear her words and feel her challenges that helped strengthen my teaching. I walked in to student teaching a little intimidated of her, and it grew into a sense of respect throughout the term as I learned that I am not perfect, and that’s okay. None of us are. She taught me that if I am not challenging myself, I am not challenging my learners, and that’s simply not okay. Don’t settle for anything less than my best. For that challenge, I am forever grateful.
Lesson learned… perfection just means it’s time to set a new challenge. Be grateful to those around you who help show you how to grow. Life is simply boring otherwise.
Be grateful for your past. It brought you to today. Be grateful for today. It tells your story for tomorrow (Thank you, Dave Burgess for the #tlap, #gratitude challenge).