Reflections on Having a Student Teacher
Bonus: Hear me on NPR's Morning Edition.
Photo Credit: Ann Marshall, NPR.
So, it's such an odd feeling when your student teacher leaves you for their next internship. Very odd. I don't quite know what to make of it. It made me question myself, mostly, and reflect on some things I hadn't thought about before. Three things to be exact.
Big Questions from this 5 Foot Oner (That's for you, Alyssa).
Am I Really Collaborative?
If you had asked me seven weeks ago if I was a teacher who liked to collaborate, I would nominate myself for an award. I'd confidently say, "Right on!" It's my nature to share, in fact, I have to hold myself back because I just get too excited about too many things...too frequently. This blog is a NECESSITY to me. I am already seeking counseling for the post-Scholastic times, come June. What am I to do? Really.
But then I started getting this icky feeling in my stomach that maybe, just maybe, I am not as collaborative as I once thought I was. Evidence includes:
~ My inability to eat lunch in the building. I felt bad for my student teacher. Maybe it would have helped her to mingle with other teachers in the school. Maybe it would help me. But, I feel so much better eating my lunch on the couch and watching Court TV. Or whatever. So much better. Regardless, it seemed like this was highlighted when I had her with us.
~ Ditto on planning time, with some short mingling with the portable folks.
~ And the biggest kicker of them all. After my student teacher left, it was like I slipped back into my comfort zone. Maybe it's just the blessings of time that is smearing this question, but I started to doubt myself. My question of the day was am a partly a recluse out in the portable? I think I just do my own thing and live in my own little bubble. I am thinking step one may be to take a walk on the track out back, maybe with a portable folk even. That's step one.
Am I a Good Teacher?
I am sure this is a question that every teacher asks when you have someone else in the room with you all the time. All day long. They get to see the good, the bad, and the boring. It makes you start to doubt yourself. And then sometimes, it was the other spectrum for me. Am I just a little too outside the box? Anyway, it was all good brain medicine for me, and I felt revitalized when I came back to teaching full-time. I guess this is where you throw in another cliche-absence makes the heart grow stronger. Well, I might question that the day or two before our break hits.
And this may sound odd, but I found myself struggling with time on the computer while my student teacher was in the room. It reminded me of my "deal" with the kids at the beginning of the year. Boy, was I breaking rule #5! "Stay away from the computer," It made me feel like the laziest teacher around, and I could only imagine my student teacher's memories of me sitting on the computer for half the day. I'm not proud of that one. Not proud at all.
After a recess conversation, I mentioned how I had noticed my student teacher seemed a little more attached to certain students. She didn't think anyone noticed. I did. But, it was a good conversation piece and it made me question myself. Do I play favorites? Are we able to really tell this about ourselves? Being the sort-of quirky, quiet child growing up, I have always thought of myself as promoter of the underdog and equality. I also have vivid memories of my sister, Veronica, growing up being brutally teased. Although she is absolutely gorgeous, talented, and hilarious there is NO DOUBT her isolation made a significant impact on who she is today. Her teasing went from early elementary all the way to high school. It actually makes me emotional as I write this. She still talks about specific events to this day. And, you can only guess that she struggled academically as well. It's little tidbits like this that made me think I don't play favorites. But who's to know?
After my student teacher left, I asked students to anonymously write down whether they thought I played favorites or not. If so, who did they perceive as my favorites? The results were not exactly what I expected. While most (85% or so) said they didn't believe I had a favorite at all, I did find a trend for the other responses. Two students. Over and over again. They happen to be my "teacher kids". Maybe I am in denial, but I wonder if this is just a result of the stereotype that teachers will like the teacher kids more. I don't know. The truth is, Eli is my favorite, and he will always be my favorite. Regardless, my most memorable response was from one student who started a list of my favorites. At about the eleventh person, they stopped and wrote, "Well, everyone is pretty much your favorite." That's priceless. I just wish more thought that as well, but you know what they say- let's see how many cliches I can stick in one post- Perception is reality.
So with that all said, I had a resolving epiphany, and it also came from my student teacher. I was creating a going away book for her on www.mixbook.com. At the back of the book I created a personalized autograph page with my students' photos on each page. I made a list of my students. 19. I went back again. Who was I missing??? "Let's see...oh, Jasmine. Nope," and the seconds passed, "I bet it's..." nope again. I resort to the grade book and run my fingers down the list. And there they are. The underdogs. The ones I somehow overlooked, and I am probably guilty of this offense on more than one occasion. It was at this moment that I realized, here should be my focus. Who do I forget about? Who do I overlook? These are the very students I need to get to know better. It might resolve perception in the process. It might make a difference for those "forgotten" students.
And you might consider trying this on your own. Who comes out first? Who comes out at the bottom of the list? Who did you forget? This is a pretty powerful tool, if you think about it. I am making it a goal to get to know those two students better. After all, I have seen first hand how much impact the social factor makes in an adult's life.
On a Happier Note
Here are some photos of the gift we gave to our student teacher. The cost. Are you ready?!?! 12.99 plus shipping and handling. 12.99! You can learn more about this on www.mixbook.com. I am thinking of a class created yearbook and class created magazine next. Parents can just log on and purchase a book if they'd like.
Here's a sample page inside. It showcased the content areas she worked on in our room.
Here is a sample of the autograph pages I was talking about (before we secretly passed it around).
It even allowed you to design the back.
I can not emphasis how nice this book turned out. The quality and professional look of it was 200% better than expected. Nice enough for me to write the company and say thank you. I will be placing more orders with them for sure. These photos do not serve justice to the finished product.
And a Book Bonus
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