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


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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