When it’s time to pick classes, some students tend to register for some classes based on the teacher, and his/her reputation amongst students and the community. Flash forward to the first day of school — you walk in and there’s a student teacher.
Straddling the line between student and teacher can’t be easy. Student teachers are stuck in unfamiliar territory: not quite a student, not quite a teacher yet either. They must earn the trust and friendship of the students while also establishing themselves as the authoritative figure, but not too authoritative, as there is still a head teacher. Obviously, it is a difficult position to navigate.
Student teachers work hard to learn as much as they can in a real classroom environment before they are on their own and are thrown into a classroom full of students. For this reason, the experience of a student teacher should be treated with respect and patience. Facing a classroom of thirty or so teens is way different than learning about it and filling one’s mind full of hypothetical situations.
Carlyle Ivey is a student at North Carolina State University and the student teacher for Monica Wilkerson, an English teacher. “Learning how to teach is a lot of theory, so a lot of learning theories based on psychology and some research on what sort of methods will work in a class. But, when you are actually in a class, a lot of those theories don’t really apply to real world settings, or, they do apply but it is not clear how to make them fit in,” said Ivey.
Student teachers face this confusing reality every day.
As a part of their major in education, student teachers are assigned a teacher at the beginning of their last year in college. During first semester, student teachers come to class a few times each week and solely observe the class and the teacher. Second semester, they must fully teach the class for eight weeks; they act as the full-time teacher, but with mentorship and guidance by their assigned teacher. Student teachers design the lessons, tests and quizzes as well as actually stand in front of the class and….well, teach. While they do all of this, they also must evaluating their experiences and note what they have learned in order to use their knowledge when teaching on their own.
Some student teachers will take away the broad lessons, such as Toni Lee, the student teacher for Eric Broer, English teacher. “I think for me, something that Mr. Broer tells me, and that I have found very beneficial, is to ‘begin with the end in mind,’” said Lee.
Others, such as Emily Coring, a student teacher for Heather Dinkenor, an English teacher, will take away aspects of the classroom environment that she would like to include in her future classroom. “My big thing is that Mrs. Dink[enor] is awesome, she makes a great classroom environment….you’re in groups (called Goose Groups) and you have each other’s backs and you help each other out. So, I want to have an environment like that in my classroom for my kids, so they feel safe with me and they feel safe among their friends and their peers,” said Coring.
An important aspect of being a student teacher is that they are students as well. Everyday, every lesson, student teachers learn something new that will help them prepare for their future. When asked what the most important thing they have learned as a student teacher, each responded differently.
“I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is that it’s not just a 7 to 3 job. It is something that you not only have to work on after you leave the school, but you have to work on it on days off,” said Lee.
“I’ve learned that learning requires motivation, and it is very hard to teach people to be motivated,” said Ivey.
“It’s a lot of work. It is more work than anybody can prepare you for, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Katie Burkett, a student at Meredith College and a student teacher for multiple math teachers.
At the end of the semester, student teachers usually find themselves more prepared than they were when they stepped in the classroom for the first time. After the extensive experience of both learning and teaching, they find themselves no longer straddling the line between student and teacher; instead, they take their first step into the world of teaching.