Wonderland Kansas City

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 22 2012

Ready for the Trenches

I’m sitting here on a Sunday afternoon, in my coziest pajamas with a mug of green tea and the Caps-Pens game on the TV. Talk about a perfect day. This blog post is one part meditation, for me to think deeply about what’s ahead in my life (don’t you just love how writing lets you do that?) The other part is honest reflection—I want to let everyone know how I’ve been preparing and what my mindset is, so that I can get feedback from those of you that are in the trenches right now.

I’m truly lucky that I get a whole semester of full-time student teaching before I go in to Institute. Although it won’t change how rigorous Institute will be (and hopefully it won’t change how much I learn while I’m there) I hope I’ll have a better handle on what’s expected of me and my personal teaching style. Most of all, I’ll be comfortable in the classroom, working with cooperating teachers, administrators, and especially the students. Even if I’m still working my butt off, hopefully I’ll be a little more relaxed and natural than some of the CMs who have spent less time in the classroom.

My student teaching internship starts tomorrow morning, when I wake up at five thirty in the morning (my heart sinks as I write that, but I guess I need to get used to what’s ahead for the rest of my life). I have to be out the door by six thirty, giving myself plenty of time to beat the awful DC rush hour traffic and get to my school by seven fifteen. Unfortunately, I’m already off to a rough start—I was out of town for about four weeks during winter break, and never had a chance to stop by the HR office of my school district after I got my placement. Since the HR process didn’t start until…Thursday…my TB test results won’t be ready until Monday afternoon. This means that I can’t actually be in the classroom until Tuesday morning—sigh. What’s even worse is that I wouldn’t have had to re-take a TB test, but my doctor’s office seems to have lost my records from the one I got last semester. But I guess that’s just how these things go. Luckily my university supervisor for my internship was understanding of the whole situation, and I don’t think that missing my first day is going to set me back. In fact, I have a plan to go into the school tomorrow morning, meet with the principal and talk to her about my internship requirements, get a tour of the school, and hopefully get assigned to a cooperating teacher. Hopefully I’ll also get to meet with the CT, so we can start planning my work for the semester. Tuesday morning, I’ll finally be in the classroom with the kiddos.

I’m nervous and excited. I met with my mentor on Friday night—an English teacher from my high school (although he was never my teacher)—and he was full of optimism and assertion that I’m a “natural” and have nothing to be worried about. But it’s also natural to be worried and nervous! My biggest strength going into student teaching is that I love working collaboratively—I think I learn best when I work with other people, communicating ideas and having constructive dialogue. If my CT really works with me, and really takes me under their wing, then I think I’ll be okay. Fingers crossed that I get a good CT! My worry is with the kids—luckily I won’t have to deal with classroom management right off the bat, but hopefully they’re a bright and well-behaved bunch. Talk about optimism! On the other hand, it would be great to work with a CT who has great classroom management skills, so that I can learn them and use them in my own classroom. I guess what it comes down to is that I hope I learn.

Along with learning strategies, I need to keep in mind that one of my weaknesses in the classroom is thinking on my feet. What do you do when you have a perfect lesson planned, one that you slaved on for hours because you thought it was fool-proof, and then you start the lesson asking a question and just get blank stares from all the kids? Maybe you have a back-up plan, but by the time you implement that, you’ve already wasted so much time and the kids are already distracted and the class is out of control? I think these are things that you learn from having to do them over and over again, to the point that experienced teachers never even have this problem. So hopefully student teaching will already get me into this habit, and hopefully it will be a habit before I’m on my own in August.

Anyway, aside from the inevitable worrying and the couple of road bumps, I do think I’m well prepared, or at least as prepared as I can be at this point. I invested in a NICE Jansport rolling backpack (I’m allowed to be nerdy now that I’m a teacher!) Inside is a binder with all of my paperwork and manuals, a binder with paperwork for my CT (so. much. paperwork.) a notebook for scrap paper (although hopefully I can take all my observational notes on my computer) and of course I have my nicest suit ironed and hanging on my door. Wish me luck! Tonight I just have to pack my lunch J

And random question for all of you who are already teaching: what do you do for lunch? My mentor teacher has a great system set up where he buys the school lunch, takes it back to his classroom and eats there, along with a handful of students who get lunch passes to come eat with him (not for disciplinary reasons or for tutoring—the kids want to come eat lunch and talk with him every day. He’s that kind of great teacher, the kind of teacher we all aspire to be). But what’s your best advice for a student teacher? I guess I’ll have to do whatever my CT does at first, but maybe at some point I can set up a system where kids come to the classroom for extra help during lunch and we all eat and work on homework or something. We’ll see!


Any more advice (or recommended reading) for a student teacher?

8 Responses

  1. els

    I bring my own lunch (usually revolves around a turkey sandwhich) and eat it in my classroom. There’s almost always a student or two that comes in, and I usually kind of work and read emails.

    I would recommend See Me After Class by Roxanna Elden and the First Days of School by Harry K. Wong.

    Good luck!!

    • wonderlandkc

      Thanks! Actually, I’ve heard good things about both of those books before, so I’m definitely adding them to my Amazon list!

  2. Lauren Walker, how do I follow only your posts on this blog? I’m very interested in your quest.

    • wonderlandkc

      I’m not sure how to follow my posts specifically…I’m new to this whole blog thing too, but I’ll let you know if I figure it out!

  3. KCMO Chief

    I bring small frozen dinners for lunch and sometimes eat with my full class in the cafeteria, sometimes I eat with other teachers to build relationships with them and sometimes eat with selected students who earn it in the classroom.

    • wonderlandkc

      Good to know! It’s great that your kids see eating in the classroom as a reward that they can earn–today it seemed like the kids who had lunch in the room were there because of behavior issues earlier in the day or because they had incomplete work to finish.

  4. Kurt (Community Manager)

    Congratulations! Your post has been featured on the Teach For Us homepage.

  5. Kayla

    I’m a teacher in the KC region. I can’t remember a day so far that my lesson has gone as planned. Most days you don’t get through everything you need. At least first semester. You just gotta adapt. And usually during your lesson is when you figure out what your kids really need more focus on anyways, then you start going down a different road. Be ready for all the flexibility or else it may be a frustrating years ha. But if you’re good with flexibility you’ll be golden.

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