By Cameron Crane
“Teaching is not going to be anything like what you’re expecting it to be…”
That was the first thing my professor said in the first Education class I ever attended. It was my first semester of college, and I was confident that I was destined to be an English teacher. So confident, in fact, that I gave little credit to what came next: “…if you are weak hearted, if you aren’t completely committed to doing this, if you are expecting to be the teacher in that inspirational movie you once saw…you should do yourself a favor and change your major now.”
I wasn’t fazed. I loved English. I was good with kids. This was the job for me. So when we were each assigned a class to student teach for a day, I was thrilled. I spent weeks planning a lesson plan that I was sure the sixth-graders I was going to be teaching would love. When the exciting day finally came, I strolled into the classroom with my head held high.
That’s when everything fell apart. It started from the moment I walked into the classroom and tried to write my name on the board, only to find the dry-erase marker was out of ink. It got worse during roll call, when I accidentally referred to a female student named Dylan as a “he”. It took fifteen minutes to realize that wearing a pair of heels to look professional was one of the worst decisions I could have made. When the day finally came to a close (after making it through only half of my carefully plotted lesson plan), I was more excited to get out of the classroom than those kids were.
I’m sure I would have learned a lot from my mistakes, had I not marched straight to my advisor’s office that day and changed my major. What I did gain from my experience, however, was a deep appreciation for anyone who is strong enough to teach. I still have many friends from that class who stuck with it and are now some of the best teachers out there. The truth is that like anything, teaching involves a lot of learning —and a lot of that learning is done by trial and error.
So, because my own experience was less than triumphant, I’ve asked some of the teachers I know to share the lessons that they’ve learned in the classroom.
Ms. Mikaela: Always try a project yourself before bringing it into the classroom. In preschool we were making valentine necklaces out of colored pasta, and the yarn would not go through the pasta holes. I didn't realize I had to put glue on the ends of the yarn so it didn't split, and some of the pasta holes were not big enough or closed off.
Mr. Ben: Always spellcheck. I once made several spelling mistakes in a newsletter home to parents. I don’t think it built confidence in the education their children were receiving!
Mr. Greg: Make sure you watch, read, and look at anything you bring into the classroom carefully before showing it to your students. One time I built an entire lesson plan around a movie that I had heard was great for the classroom. The night before, I finally watched the movie, and realized that many of the scenes were not age-appropriate. I stayed up all night re-planning the day. It was a disaster. But it would have been way worse if I had shown the video!
Ms. Alexis: Be prepared to mediate social conflicts. If you are planning a group project, or any situation where one of your students might feel left out, make sure you have a careful system in place. The first time I ever had my students work on a project in teams, I let them choose teams of 3 on their own, without realizing that one of the students was absent. When he came back to class the next day, the teams had already started and didn't want to add another person! I felt terrible.
Image Credit: lessontweaker.blogspot.com