We welcome a student teacher into our classroom on Monday. I spent Wednesday afternoon carving out a space for her – a desk and comfortable chair, a box of tissues, some stationary, and a vase for the flowers I will bring on Monday morning (NJ schools are closed Thursday and friday for a teacher’s convention). I don’t have a “teacher’s desk” for myself, so it took some figuring out and moving around before I could find a spot that would fit an extra table without giving up any reading-project making-conferring space.
I’ve set aside today for gathering materials she will need: professional reading selections, lesson plan materials, all the handbooks I keep filled with charts and notes for reading and writing workshop, lists of this and that. Apart from the year I mentored Rachel, I have had no experience with student teachers or guiding new teachers, so I am nervous about getting it right, about making sure that Jessica has a rich and meaningful experience learning and teaching in our room.
I was talking about this with my husband, who put it succinctly: “Well, your job is to help her decide what kind of teacher she wants to be.” That thought has been rattling around in my brain ever since, because deciding what kind of teacher we want to be is at the very heart of our journey as teachers. I know that Jessica comes to our classroom with ideas and passion of her own. She’s studied at an amazing university, and excelled at all her classes. She’s already spent six weeks in the fifth grade classroom of a colleague I admire, so she’s had more experience at this student teaching thing than I have.
And, six weeks is really not enough time, is it? There is so much know- how to share!
Looking at the big pile of “stuff” I’ve assembled, I have a feeling that not much of it really matters. What does matter is much harder to get across.
You need to spend time building trust – opening your heart and letting kids in.
You need to listen more than talk.
You need to be willing to accept that learning how to teach is an ever evolving process. In my 12th. year of teaching, I can truthfully say that I am still learning every day. The process is never complete.
I am thinking of passing along this keynote by Chris Lehmann in which he offered up some questions to ask ourselves, and some advice:
“What are you willing to unlearn? What do you do in your classroom today that is because it is what you are good at regardless of whether or not it is needed by the children anymore?”
“What are you doing that empowers kids? We need to enable them to do amazing things.”
“Don’t ever forget to have fun. We get to teach. ..We get to hang out with kids all life long. How much do we win?! This job is supposed to be fun, it is supposed to be joyful!”
On second thought, I might just save my collection of “things you need to have” for another time, and just forward the video. The sum of all I try to do in my classroom with my students is pretty much all right there in what Chris Lehmann had to say. Above all, I hope Jessica gets to see and share the joy.