We asked our teacher candidates to imagine that they are sitting across from us individually at a table in the student center enjoying a cup of coffee or a soda together. We then asked them to write down one question they would like to ask us during this coffee date. No limits…ask away. What would they like to know?
The questions were incredible. So many of them to answer…so little space to write in this blog. Though we wanted to answer every question because each one holds its own uniqueness and importance to the teacher candidate who asked, we picked just a few to add to this blog…maybe there will have to be a Part II.
Teacher Candidate (TC): What was your biggest fear when starting out as a new teacher?
Dr. Wendy (WS): My biggest fear was not being prepared. Every year in August, I would have the same recurring dream…that I showed up on my first day of class with nothing ready to go. Thank goodness some dreams don’t come true.
Dr. V. (SV): Not knowing it all. Then I finally figured out that I would not know it all, and I shouldn’t know it all. I did not fail my students when I said, “I’m not sure of that answer.” I was helping them grow as learners and modeling for them when I then said, “Let’s find out together.”
TC: In our first year of teaching, how do we obtain the countless games, resources, decorations, etc. that will be used in our rooms? Do we need to obtain these ourselves before teaching or is it part of the budget?
WS: In my first year, I had a room full of ‘stuff’ that the retired teacher left behind such as the cursive alphabet on the front wall above the chalkboard/whiteboard and a few bulletin board borders. I also had some materials from college that I still have and use today. Our budget allowed us so many dollars each year to purchase items for our classrooms. Just know that teachers supplement their classrooms with their own money.
SV: Put your loved ones to work. I enlisted my little sister’s services. She was just a “college” student at the time so I used up her free summer time prepping my classroom. Most of it was my budget along with the good will of mentor teachers and the local Good Will. There was a small classroom budget, but with my optimistic idealism, I needed more. Hindsight: Less is more… it is you, the teacher who learners need… the colorful room is just an extra.
TC: My boyfriend lives in Kansas and moves all the time with his job. How do I deal with this with licensure requirements?
WS: Whatever state you move to, visit their Department of Education Website. Their licensure requirements are listed on there somewhere. My daughter graduated from and taught in Boise, ID for a few years. She then moved to Minnesota. She visited the MN Department of ED website and began to fulfill all the requirements that they have listed. Yes, she had some frustrations, but she got it accomplished and has been teaching in MN for 5 years.
SV: Start by getting your MN licensure. Do not go through all the work to get there and then almost get there but not get there. Get it?! Once you have your degree and licensure in place, pack your bags! Okay – not quite so quickly… Check with the Department of Ed for that particular state as each state has its own requirements. If you do well on your edTPA and are licensed in MN, that will take you places. MN has high standards for educators so all the torture you go through to get your license, pays off. Your learners are counting on it!
TC: Did you ever struggle financially with a teacher salary?
WS: When I first began teaching in 1987, my salary was $17, 800. Quite honestly, I thought that was a lot of money then. I had worked in banks as a teller and my teacher salary was WAY MORE than my bank salary. My mom, who had been working in the same bank for almost 30 years, was only making $18,800 in 1987. I started just a thousand dollars below her. I was proud and so was she. So, NO, I have never struggled on my teacher salary. In my lifetime, my teaching salary has been MY highest salary ever. Others may not agree.
SV: Yes – struggled with finances at times but never with my calling. Teaching is a profession of the heart. You have to be ready to sacrifice some for the good of others. I started at a private school in 1998 at $17,600 – so just below Dr. Wendy about a decade later in life. It was great at the time since I earned about $2,000 as a teacher’s aide previous to that while earning my licensure. It goes up from there – so perspective is everything.
TC: If you were hiring a new teacher, what is the most important thing you are looking for?
WS: I would want someone who is able to build positive relationships with students. Someone who will always be a champion for children.
SV: Positive game-changers who are willing to lead by example and put learners first. It is important to care for one’s self as well – so don’t get me wrong there. What I am talking about is an individual who is compassionate and has a passion for teaching and learning. They aren’t there for summers off. They are there to change the world one student at a time, one day at a time – even when it is hard. Believe me – some days will be like that. Effective teachers know this, embrace this, and teach anyway.
Remember…we told them they could ask us anything they wanted to so let us end with these two questions that have nothing to do with teaching…
TC: What does marriage really take to be successful?
WS: After celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband and I talked about this very question. What made our marriage thrive? If you want to know the “WE DO’s” of our marriage (Example: We do choose to be ‘we and ours’ not ‘mine and yours’ in everything except our underwear :-)), please check out my blog on this very subject… https://educonnections.org/2017/06/27/we-do/
SV: Collaboration – just like any relationship. Work hard. Play hard. Agree to disagree sometimes. Set goals and celebrate accomplishments. Be the other person’s cheerleader even when you don’t feel like cheering. Don’t keep secrets – except for surprise gifts.
TC: What kind of soda do you like?
WS: An ice cold Coke in a glass bottle just pulled out of a cooler full of ice. YUMMO! 🙂
SV: 7-Up or Dr. Pepper or Root Beer… I actually don’t drink a lot of soda, but when I do, I enjoy a fizzy fountain pop with ice.
Teacher candidates…even though we were not able to have coffee or soda together…let’s make a date to get together in the near future. Until then, we hope these answers will help you grow professionally and personally.