In the past, I have refused to even consider the possibility of working with a student teacher. Many of my friends had told me their horrendous experiences. They convinced me that student teachers were more trouble than they were worth. Only a few people had positive stories about their student teachers.
In retrospect, my refusal seems rather foolish. After all, someone had to accept my own application, or I wouldn't have become the veteran teacher I am today. I'd like to think that my reasons for refusing a student teacher had something to do with the stories of nightmarish experiences I had heard of. I'd be fooling myself if I really believed that. For eight of my nine years as an English teacher, I have been THE English department. My word has been law; my methods golden, and I was being asked to share control. My ego was on the line.
This record does not exactly qualify me as an expert on the subject; yet, I'm writing about my first experience with a student teacher. My student teacher is co-writing this article, and I'm sure we'll both learn from this experience.
This experience has been an eye opener. My student teacher, Mike Moran, has taken on my most difficult students with the success of an old master. He is one of the most well-read, articulate people I have ever worked with. He has taken over in every area of my language arts curriculum with a great deal of success.
I realize that he may very well be the exception to the rule because he is an exceptional individual. Within the first two days he was in my classroom, Mike was teaching two different classes. In addition to his teaching assignments, he assisted with basketball after school and co-directed the all-school play in the evening.
I can't imagine a better experience for my students. He has shown them how to relate literature from centuries ago to their own experiences. He has make me a believer. Working with a student teacher can be amazingly rewarding for even a veteran teacher. I'll never regret any of the time Mike has spent in my classroom. Not only did he do a great job of teaching my students, but he has also taught me some valuable lessons without bruising my ego too badly in the process.
Mike will be a tough act to follow, but I'll never again refuse the chance to learn while I teach. Being a cooperating teacher for Mike Moran was one of the best experiences I've ever had, and one I'll not soon forget.
Like most prospective student teachers, I was a little apprehensive about "taking the plunge" into classroom teaching. I had taken a number of methods courses, but I realized that no theoretical class I had even taken could perfectly simulate a real classroom. The intangibles in any given class, in any given school, can never be encapsulized in a textbook or someone else's methodology.
Keeping this in mind, I started searching for a school and a cooperating teacher that I felt would be able to best help me through the very difficult task of teaching in a classroom for the first time. After many hours of debate over the issue, I decided on Stickney Public Schools. I had heard some "glowing" reports about Kandy Punt, the school's English teacher and drama and oral interpretation coach. Taking these factors into consideration (and to be perfectly hones, with a grain of salt), I went to Stickney hoping for the best, while expecting far less.
Upon my arrival, I realized that the fantastic reports were not only accurate, but even understated. I simply could not have asked for a better environment and system to walk into. Her curriculum is challenging, yet fair, and her methods are effective because they perfectly accommodate the needs of special situations she faces in her school and classroom.
Realizing all of this, I discovered a new dilemma before my eyes. How would I be able to live up to the students' expectations in such a successful system? The answer came quickly and easily from Kandy Punt herself. She told me: " . . .just be yourself and try anything you want to try; don't even think twice about what I would do."
Let me tell you, getting this kind of freedom from an exceptional teacher was a real boost to my confidence. From that first conversation on, we were able to work together with absolutely no problems whatsoever.
Maybe our excellent relationship is an exception to the rule, but this experience has really been the most beneficial and exciting part of my upper-level education. I could not have asked for a greater person to work with or better preparation for giving me one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.