Reflections on student teaching

It’s hard to believe that the 18 weeks of student teaching are actually over (as of May 10 to be exact!) because it seemed to consume my whole life while I was going through it.  Although it was the most challenging months of my life, juggling my 10+ hour days with working full-time, student teaching half-time, and being a student (not to mention all while pregnant!)…it was also extremely rewarding.

I worked with Mr. H’s class of 6th graders for the first half and Mr. R’s class of 7th graders for the second half.  Here are some highlights and some things I learned about myself as an educator:

  • I laughed a LOT with the students I was working with.  They are so entertaining in their creative ways of thinking about the world and they never ceased to crack me up.  My university mentor told me that I “smile a lot in class” which she says is great for building and maintaining a positive classroom environment but I honestly couldn’t see myself not smiling so much with their wonderful ways of looking at the world.
  • My experience with sixth graders is that they are sweet and still try to please the teacher.  My experience with seventh graders is that they think they know what’s going on, they aren’t afraid to question the teacher, and they engage in back-and-forth discussion with the teacher.  At least with these two groups of students I found that I enjoy working with seventh graders just a little more because they are just a bit more witty and I really enjoyed having that back-and-forth discussion with them.  They are a lot less inhibited, ask amazingly deep questions, and can engage in some higher order thinking than the sixth graders.
  • I learned that, although I’d be happy with just about any middle school history teaching position I was offered, I don’t think I want to teach eighth grade U.S. History as much any more–I realized how interested I am personally in the seventh grade curriculum (Medieval and Early Modern Times: the Roman Empire, Medieval China, Japan, Africa, Europe, Meso-American and Andean civilizations, the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Enlightenment, and the Age of Reason) and what an impact I can make on the understanding of and appreciation of these topics with my students as it seems to be the least focused on at least in my own personal experience in middle school.
  • I’m really good at pacing–I plan lectures, activities, etc. with just enough time to keep the students engaged but not let them get bored.
  • I was told by my university mentor, Mr. H, and Mr. R that I have an “incredible gift” of building rapport with students, something that they say is not easy to do.  I’ve always considered myself to be good with kids and although I had my share of challenges with classroom management, I do think that my ability to get to know the students on a one-on-one basis and connect to them in ways that not all adults are able to helped me manage the class a lot easier than if I hadn’t.
  • I realized that what I struggle with the most is:
  1. Planning ahead: I’d find myself working on lesson plans until the late hours of the night for the next day and although I know I had my crazy schedule to blame I do not want to be that teacher!  It always came together and I don’t think the students ever noticed but I definitely don’t want to spend my life doing that.
  2. Preparing for absences: If a student was absent and showed up the next day I always struggled with having materials and their missed assignments to get them up to speed–this is something I really need to come up with a good system for.
  3. Over-planning: This doesn’t seem like it could be too much of a problem (I mean, it’s better than not planning enough to fill a class period!) but if I can’t get to all of the activities/instruction I had planned for each day and have to push things back a day (which then can snowball) that doesn’t allow for me to accomplish all of the learning goals I had set up.
  • On my last day with the sixth graders, Mr. H made brownies for the class and had the students share reasons “Why Mrs. Delmar is going to be a good teacher”…their answers were awesome and my favorites were: “Because you make learning fun”, “Because you work really hard”, and, my favorite, “Because you like kids.”  The students made me a really sweet card too!
  • On my last day with the seventh graders, the students surprised me with cupcakes that they baked and decorated themselves and gave me a super sweet card as well thanking me for my time with them!
  • I was told on a number of occasions by different folks who came in to observe me teach that I am “a natural”–there are no words that made me feel more confident about my career choice than those.
  • Each day when I would leave at the lunch hour to go to work I did not want to leave.  Each day I would think about the day in the future that I wouldn’t have to and I’d have my own class, my own students, and my own ways of doing things and it would make me so happy.

I learned a lot about myself as an educator and more than anything it solidified for me that teaching middle school history is exactly where I am meant to be in life.  I’ll be filing for my California teaching credential this summer and my hope is to be teaching middle school history in the near future!

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