Since today is New Year's Eve, it is common for most people to reflect on the last 12 months and think of things that were good, things that were bad, or things that they have learned in the last year. It is that last one that I will dedicate this post to.
This year I have learned more about education, than in any other year of college. I started out 2008 by observing a first year American History teacher in a smalltown high school north of Kansas City. I spent the first seven weeks of the spring semester observing this teacher. While, he was only a first year teacher, it was a learning experience for me because I saw a sneak preview of what my first year teaching might look like. His room was not decorated with the typical social studies decor; flags, historical posters, maps, or even pictures. He was a good teacher, but I quickly saw that he and I had different styles of teaching. I will now be able to draw from that experience and do things differently in my own classroom. The students seemed to like him and relate to him, which taught me something else. That is, a decorated classroom does not always make you a good teacher. Good teachers are good teachers no matter the environment. My experience at this high school sparked the beginnings of my own teaching style and philosophy that all students can learn and it is my job, as their teacher, to find how they learn best and what motivates them to be successful in the classroom and in life.
The second seven weeks, I spent with the teacher I would be student teaching for in the fall. I spent the last half of my spring semester at Liberty High School, working with Doug Winkler, a veteran teacher of 20+ years, who teaches AP US History, AP World History, World History, and Government and Economics. In his classroom and at this high school is where I learned the most about education.
Those seven weeks in the spring were just to prepare me for the next semester, where I would be taking on full responsibility of the classroom as the student teacher. For that reason, most of the learning did not come until the fall. If someone were to ask me, "When should I student teach?" My answer would be in the fall, because as the student teacher you get the privilege of seeing behind-the-scenes of the classroom before the school year starts and the students arrive. I participated in the pre-school workshops and seminars, unpacking the textbooks, and helping Doug set up the classroom. These experiences were great because they gave me a sense of ownership in the classroom before school started; I was not trying to gain that ownership the first few weeks of school, I had already established it. I believe this also helps with gaining that "teacher" status with the students. Since I was there the first day of school, I was not viewed as a visitor or temporary figure in the classroom. I was given the same respect that Doug was given because I established my self as the teacher on day one. In fact, most students were shocked and surprised when I told them I wouldn't be back after winter break. I think that was one of the most important lessons I learned in 2008.
It is extremely important to classroom management that the teacher establishes themselves as such on day one; set high expectations and be consistent. If the students see you as the one in control of the classroom, then, in my experience, most behavioral issues are ousted before they begin.
My experience student teaching for Doug was something I will never forget. He taught me so many things that it would take too much time to recall all the lessons I've learned. I can say that I am a better teacher and more prepared for my own classroom having taught beside Doug Winkler. I am eager to enter the classroom on day one, hopefully something will open in my area so I can begin my journey through education!