As I have often explained, I have one of the most terrific sideline jobs in existence.
I have the privilege of working with Great Basin College students in an introduction to education course as well as having many of them later as student teachers as they complete their years of hard work, assignments, and theoretical classrooms.
The transformation from nervous novice to uneasy beginning teacher to competent educator is phenomenal. And fun. I am not saying that we do not share some tears – tears of joy, tears of frustration, tears of concern. These flow. But the growth and progress of each one of these wonderful students are terrific to observe and to be a part of.
This semester I have eight students in my introductory class. In the early years of the program I often had 12 to 15 students, but that has slacked off until this year. From fresh out of high school to those with years of life experience, my students are super.
They are curious and fully of questions. They grab ideas that I present and mull and maul and fashion them into understanding. Several have children so they grasp some of the ins and outs of working with kids. Others currently work in schools as aides or substitutes and have found teaching to be an admirable career.
They all come with a load of personal school experiences, both positive and negative. They come with eyes wide open as they dream of making a difference in the lives of others. I leave class on a gigantic upswing of happiness, holding to the thought that the future is brighter for local students because we have these enthusiastic and determined individuals.
In two to three years, each of these “newbies” will step into their own classrooms as they assume full responsibility for helping students learning and succeed. I have five student teachers this semester and I am so impressed with their drive, resolve, and background strategies and techniques. While anxious and occasionally frantic, each endeavors to be the best. They teach, adjust, try again, modify, and strive to set minds aglow with knowledge and comprehension. What they do not know is based on lack of experience and the varied past educational experience of their students. I assure my teachers that they will be fine – they are filling their instructional toolbox and the job will become easier over time. Effort, patience, and commitment will reward them. Yep, I am proud and inspired.
And what about the students in these classrooms? While some skills of their teachers are still in the making, the enthusiasm and zest offset much of the inexperience. These kids are the beneficiaries of fresh eyes, ideas, and novel approaches. They are the young observers of the transitioning new teacher into a wise and wily educator. Yes, you have to have a little of both to manage all of the aspects of teaching: rules, procedures, lesson plans, standards, classroom management, student engagement, and a plethora of meetings.
A couple of stories – the first will break your heart. A table of fourth graders were discussing their families. One shy boy finally spoke up in a quivering voice, “I don’t have a Dad.
He left when I was 3.” The other students listened as they tried to imagine being abandoned and then remained speechless. This, I share with my teachers, is a painful part of the job. Educating while easing students through physical, social, and emotional neglect hurts. Teachers do have wide shoulders and big hearts.
My second student, a kindergartner, met me at the classroom door as I entered with my laptop and notepad. “Mighty fine computer, there,” my Wal-Mart greeter-like student stated with a smile. “Tell me, just exactly what are you doing here?” As the teacher taught, I explained, and he appeared to be satisfied and headed back to his assignment.
However, he periodically returned to check on me, asking if I had any questions or needed any help. As the recess bell echoed, he waved good-bye and shouted, “Come back any time!”
As I left the school I watched some students twirling in lovely back-to-school dresses while others raced around the playground in raucous games of tag. The laughing and joy were contagious and I chuckled on my drive home. I keep planning to retire from this job, but then with the interesting and gratifying experiences I enjoy, I wonder if I ever will. It’s too much fun!