Student Teaching: “You’ll Be Fine, I’ll Be in the Lounge.”

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I’ve almost hit the mid-point of my career in education.  At least I hope it’s the mid-point.

It could be nearing the end, but time will tell (as always, if you hear anything let me know… resumes don’t update themselves).

A few days ago it occurred to me it’s been over 15 years since I student taught.

To a young person that probably seems like forever.Teacher's Lounge.

But not to me.  It seems like it was only yesterday.  Then I look in the mirror and realize it wasn’t.

My path towards teaching wasn’t a straight one.  I had a couple of careers (i.e. jobs) before I stumbled upon my love of teaching (i.e. summers off).

As I look back it was a big step to return to college and obtain a teaching certificate.

I found the class work easy compared to my first trip through higher education (i.e. no longer a complete idiot).

After two semesters it was time to student teach.

I can distinctly remember filing out the form to apply.  They gave you a choice of 3 geographic areas.  You had to rank them in the order of preference and then they placed you in a school district.

My choices: anywhere but a large school, anywhere but a large school, and anywhere but a large school (in no particular order… after all, I didn’t want to be demanding or high maintenance).

As I awaited for my student teaching assignment, I must admit I was a little nervous.

By a little, I mean a lot.

I was hoping (and praying) for a small school.

You can probably guess where they put me.

A large school.

It was 5 times bigger than the one I attended as a student.  So naturally, I assumed I would be stabbed.

This provided me with a bit of nervousness as I reported to work on my first day.

My student teacher coordinator was old school, so I knew he wouldn’t be happy if I bled out in the middle of the hallway (that would have caused him to do a ton of paperwork).

Basically, I was scared to death.  It was a combination of teaching, a large school, and getting shanked while writing on the chalkboard (yes, chalkboard… I told you it was over a decade and a half ago).

I was absolutely positive that getting stabbed with a homemade knife was not a good way to begin (or end) my career.

As I arrived in my new cell block, I mean classroom, the teacher with whom I was working was very excited.

He said he loved having student teachers.

He was almost giddy.

I assumed he was excited because he loved sharing his knowledge.

Nope.

He was excited because his workload was about to decrease by 100%.

The first thing he did was give me a tour of the classroom.  He did this while sitting at his desk with his feet up.

He showed me the plan book, grade book, and the phone.  He said to call the Assistant Principal if I had any trouble (i.e. knife wound).

Then he said he would teach 1st hour so I could get the feel of the class.  This should have been a clue, but I didn’t pick up on it because I was too busy trying not to cry.

I sat in the back of the room as he taught.  Everything went pretty well.  The students were relatively well-behaved and no one died, so I had that going for me.

He even had me participate by handing out papers and explaining the students’ homework for the following day.

The bell rang at the end of the period and he called me up to the front of the room.

He handed me the plan book and said, “You are going to be fine.  If you need anything, I’ll be in the lounge.”

Call me crazy, but I sensed a problem.

One, I had no idea what I was doing.  Two, I had no idea where the lounge was located.  And three, I didn’t want to die alone.

Then he walked out of the classroom.

That was it.

I had been in his room for less than an hour and he was leaving (for good… I only saw him a few times after that).

I was on my own. 

Now I was beyond nervous.

Petrified was more like it.

As I look back it was a challenging way to learn how to teach (The Thrown to the Wolves and Pray You Don’t Get Killed Method), but I survived and learned a lot (and didn’t die… which pleased me greatly). 

My cooperating teacher retired from the profession a couple of years later, so that was a good thing.

I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to experience student teaching in the way I did, but I’m glad I did.

By the second day, I was no longer focused on being in a large school or dreading getting stabbed because I had other things to worry about.

Like teaching.

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12 Responses to “Student Teaching: “You’ll Be Fine, I’ll Be in the Lounge.””


  1. Unklar
    on Nov 4th, 2009
    @ 4:26 pm

    Nice post, but it made me realize that I student taught 29 years ago. Didn’t actually start teaching until 11 years later. I had this wild notion that I needed to have a “real” job and make money.


  2. Jenny
    on Nov 4th, 2009
    @ 5:59 pm

    My own student teaching cooperating teacher told me about her experience. She was stuck with a teacher who basically let her observe. She was rarely if ever allowed to teach anything, because this CT was such a control freak.

    Then, the cooperating teacher got seriously ill. She was suddenly in the hospital getting emergency surgery, and her student teacher was in charge of everything- every bit of planning and teaching.

    Later, she said the student teaching experience was stressful- but she learned so much because she HAD to. And in a situation where the teacher would have given her little or no chance of trying anything, this was probably much better for her as a teacher.

    I do think you need to have support as a student teacher, but being left alone is important too. I wish my CT would’ve spent more time working with me to plan and showing me how she usually does it. I definitely would have loved more feedback in between required evaluations. I would have really gotten a lot out of her leaving the classroom completely more. (Often she’d sit in the back and work on a project, but the students still acted better when she was there.)


  3. Carol Horner
    on Nov 4th, 2009
    @ 6:40 pm

    It has been 27 years since I student taught but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a Health and PE major (the first time through). We did 2 eight week assignments. My first assignment was to a very poor school district. Three days after I arrived, they reassigned my cooperating teacher to another school. I was completely on my own. I walked the children to a playground about a block away from the school for PE when the weather was nice. I had one student run away. What do you do with the 30 other kids when you are the only adult and one kid takes off? I had one kid put his fist through a glass window – honest – it wasn’t my fault. It was a horrible experience. Then my supervisor from the college got into a verbal fight with the missing cooperating teacher (over the phone but in front of me). He hadn’t been told that I was left alone. He got mad at me because I didn’t notify the college – what did I know – I was a student teacher. I just did what I was told. If it weren’t that my second assignment was so good, I might have left teaching before I got started.


  4. eduguy101
    on Nov 4th, 2009
    @ 8:17 pm

    Mike,
    A great post. Two things came to me.

    1. Today we were talking about student teaching and I could remember my supervising teachers name from 28 years ago. Thanks to your post I did.

    2. It made me reminisce about my student teaching in rural Ohio and how my supervising teacher was a control freak and make me sit and just watch for 2 weeks, teach the afternoon half exactly like he did (I mean verbatim) for 2 weeks, teach the first half of the day and then he showed me the “right” way in the second half. I taught 4 classes for 2 weeks (never getting to teach his “honors class”, ever!) and then back to splitting for the last 4 weeks. He was bored watching me teach.

    The good news is that I survived–no knife wounds—and somehow become a teacher despite my mediocre preparation.

    Finally, it reminds me that as a building principal it is important to set standards for both supervising teachers and the student teachers. Our clients, the students, deserve the best from everyone. In my short run as a principal we have walked 6 or 7 students teachers out of the building because they couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work.

    Thanks again.


  5. Christy
    on Nov 5th, 2009
    @ 7:03 pm

    oh my gosh, this is hilarious. I laughed out loud for quite some time when you mentioned the stabbings. I ended up getting a job at a school in Texas with 3000 students….while I had GRADUATED from a high school with 250. It was scary. I was also convinced I would be shot at school. (I’m actually a little surprised it never happened.)


  6. pete post
    on Nov 6th, 2009
    @ 6:16 am

    Michael,
    I will be sending this along to the five student teachers that I am supervising this semester – I am sure that they will love it (and I’m sure they are currently adding stories of their own).
    Just wanted to also thank you for personally responding to my students in Intro to SPED at Trinity. They couldn’t believe that you would take the time to actually acknowledge their comments. Certainly makes them think a little more about what they write. But don’t worry – I won’t assign them to reflect on your blog every week.
    Pete


  7. Jeff R
    on Nov 9th, 2009
    @ 7:00 am

    Principal Smith,

    I am one of Pete Post’s student teachers from Trinity Christian College. Professor Post suggested that I read your blog on student teaching and so to start out this week I did.

    As I read it I went through some of my thoughts in the days right before student teaching as well as the first few days in my school. Like you were, I am in a very large high school compared to the one that I grew up in (2,500 students versus 800). The other difference that I had was I was going to be working a public school while I had to gone to private education my entire life.

    As school started for me I found my nerves to be absolutely crazy as well. The anticipation had been building all summer long for me and then it was there! I wasn’t sure what to quite expect, even though professors try to prepare you as best they can. It was just a strange feeling starting the year and walking the halls with 2,500 high schoolers. I wasn’t sure what way to turn in many instances because I was also not sure where the teacher’s lounge was located, where I could go for copying, and just all the little things that go along with teaching. Not to mention the fact that I was going to be working with 150 freshman and sophomores on a daily basis. Needless to say my fiance knew that I was under some stress at this point.

    But…in spite of all that nervousness I am now 5 weeks from completion of my student teaching, and I am happy to say that it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have been placed with several amazing teachers in my school in both the social studies and special education departments. It has been a true blessing to work with many highly skilled teachers and learn more about teaching every single minute that I am inside the building. I have gone from from that simple college student to a teacher who has been able to building relationships with students and work with them to develop their goals and education.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Jeff


  8. Amanda
    on Sep 16th, 2013
    @ 7:48 am

    I am student teaching RIGHT NOW (one week down, ten to go), and I have to say- no knife wounds, yet! Which is always a good sign.

    But I have to admit, student teaching scares me to death. I feel like I would almost prefer to simply jump in an be a teacher rather than student teach. It’s the constant eyes on you. I mean, I’m new at this- I’m going to make mistakes. I don’t really want to make those mistakes under an all-seeing eye, you know? But you gotta do what you’ve gotta do, I suppose.

    Wish me luck- 10 more weeks to go!

    Michael Smith Reply:

    You will do great. We all survived!


  9. Laniegirl
    on Dec 11th, 2013
    @ 10:34 pm

    I was so much more afraid of my student teaching than I should have been, but not because I was super successful (which, I COULD have been), but because my mentor teacher never really gave me full control of the classroom. He never left and I never felt like I was the teacher of record. It was extremely opposite of your experience…it honestly wasn’t much of one. I spent a great portion of 15 weeks being second fiddle to the regular classroom teacher and then I was put on display like a dazzling ornament when my supervisor would come…this was extremely frustrating for me. Let’s just say, I am glad I am graduating in two days, but I am scared to death the day I get an actual classroom.


  10. Miss Goldie
    on Apr 7th, 2014
    @ 6:57 pm

    I know this post is older, but it really spoke to me. I have 4 weeks left of student teaching, and I feel miserable about it. I love my students and I try to do everything I can to give them the best that I have to offer. My CT and supervisor have been little help. My CT often leaves the room right when I have something important to discuss with her. When she is in the room, she will interrupt my lessons and criticize what I’m doing in front of the students. My supervisor told me to “suck it up”. I think that your blog made me feel better because sometimes we student teachers want to hear someone who isn’t a friend or family member to tell us that it’s survivable. It’s one thing to have a loved one sympathize with you, but it’s another to have someone settled in the field to tell you it’s alright. So I just wanted to say thanks for this post!

    Michael Smith Reply:

    Hang in there. This and your first year are the hardest part.

    It gets better.

    If it didn’t, I would have a different career. :)

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