Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On Becoming a Teacher

I cannot think of many things in life that are more rewarding
than being actively involved in the creation of a teacher. As a supervisor of student teachers I am privileged to work with young people as they make the journey from being a student of teaching to being a qualified, licensed teacher. My student teachers are active participants in the journey, of course, but they need feedback, advice, and guidance as they navigate the many intricacies of the elementary school classroom.

The journey is often marked by remarkable self-analysis on the part of the student teachers as well as "aha" moments of life changing significance. Several weeks ago, one of my student teachers shared a wonderful realization with me which involved her work with a rather difficult student in her classroom. The student has a reputation for being a little bit difficult so when he acted up one day and said he would not do the assigned work she automatically assumed he was just being difficult. Within a minute of sitting down with him she realized that he did not understand the assignment and wanted help to get started. In her reflection the student teacher described how she will never again automatically assume that a student's difficulty is a result of an attitude, especially if the student has a track record of being negative. Once she had sat down with him and gone over the assignment he was fine. From now on, she said, she will assume the best of every student until proven otherwise.

Another of my student teachers has a beautiful clear, but rather loud natural voice; a voice like a bell, as I call it. This is a wonderful attribute for a teacher but one that needs to be tamed and used to best effect. When she spoke to the young students in her classroom  they would tend to get louder and then she would get louder and so on. So we developed a strategy that she could become more aware of her voice as others heard it. Her cooperating teacher videotaped her and used a signal to help her become aware when her voice was getting too loud. In her last set of journals the student shared her excitement at how the students were responding so well to her quiet voice. Her whole student teaching experience has now changed for the positive because she can see the results of something she is actively doing to improve her teaching skills.

The journey of becoming a teacher is not a spectator sport.   

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