Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Year, New Career

Teachers, do you remember the anxiety you felt before your student teaching experience? All the questions: what if I don't know what to do? What if the kids don't like me? What if I can't answer their questions? What if my cooperating teacher is difficult? What if I can't find parking? To me, student teaching felt like it had apocalypse potential, as though all the scenarios in those "what ifs" would be realized and the last four years of my life would have been wasted.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give the opening address to the fall 2014 student teachers from the University of Montana. These student teachers are starting out in their new placements in the next week or two. I talked about anxiety and how even though they probably won't shake the nerves (if they have them at all - but I doubt it's just me!) there are things they can do actively to make student teaching successful. I offered some ideas in a David Letterman-style Top Ten List. Here they are, in telescoped version:

10. Pay attention to the kids nobody pays attention to.
9. Get to know everyone around you in addition to your cooperating teacher and students.
8. Remember that nobody expects you to know everything.
7. Remember that you are prepared to do this job.
6. Try to learn from your cooperating teacher even if you don't care for him/her or the teaching style.
5. Don't be afraid of the principal.
4. You are a community servant; reflect your community's values, and defer to parents' wishes as much as possible.
3. Act and dress like a professional.
2. Use every second of your classes.
1. Remember why you want to teach.

Whenever I talk to preservice teachers, I'm excited for them. I think of all the challenges and rewards they have ahead. I think of their brimming readiness to take on these challenges and to use what they've learned in their college experiences. I think of the ways more experienced teachers can help them become the teachers they want to be.

It's an honor to welcome these new faces to this best profession.

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