Well, folks, this is it. I am officially student teaching. As an elementary school music teacher, I’m working with kindergarteners through sixth graders, which provides quite the range of experiences. After years of training, I get to run the long-anticipated final leg of the teacher-education relay. I promise to not only post excerpts from my student teaching journal, but it seemed like an appropriate way to introduce the experience. I’ll certainly be drawing from the classroom when I write and I hope that some of it will be helpful. (For the sake of privacy and anonymity, names have been changed.
Without further ado, welcome to a few of the thoughts of a first-week student teacher.
We had a sub today because my mentor teacher, Mrs. Dorian, had to attend a funeral. The sub kept introducing me to the kids as “Hannah” and that irked me a little. He can be “Gary” because he’s just here today. I think I need a little more of an impression since I’ll be working with these kids for the next seven weeks.
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The older kids started pulling the whole “give the new teacher a fake name” trick. Oh well. Overall, I think it went well and I’m looking forward to everything. It was actually kind of nice getting to establish my own presence without Mrs. Dorian there on day one. I tried to show the kids that I can hold my own, and I mean business, but also that I’m fun and happy. I think it worked. And I’m certainly glad she’ll be back tomorrow.
The kids are REALLY good for Mrs. Dorian. She told me she’s gotten a little flack over the years for being too strict, but she runs a tight ship and can afford to be nice and fun and relaxed later because they know she’s serious. She made me more consciously aware of how consistent and vigilant you have to be with the kids—you have to always be giving little reminders about proper procedures: how to line up and sit quietly, how to walk in the hallway appropriately, to keep their hands to themselves, etc. All those tedious little things that the idealist in me wishes I didn’t have to do, I actually DO have to do. And they will probably be the key to success with classroom management.
The last period was the most fun for me because she let me run the “playing tests” for the 4th graders on the recorder. I got a couple minutes (or just seconds if they were really good and played it well quickly) with each student in the hallway to listen to them play. I got to coach them and help diagnose potential trouble spots. It’s weird suddenly feeling like a total expert on an instrument I don’t really play. But I can play it. And as a musician, I can figure out what they’re doing or not doing that makes their sound quality suffer. I just wish they didn’t get so nervous! I felt bad standing there with a clipboard and a pencil—Mrs. Dorian wanted me to mark if they couldn’t get it in 3 tries. I’m actually much taller than these kids and I felt intimidating. That’s a first.
I taught parts of 2nd and 1st grade and a whole kindergarten lesson—with some help and reminders from Mrs. Dorian. I also did warm-ups for the 6th grade choir. I enjoy teaching, but I get nervous. I talked to several music teacher colleagues about this, but I kind of feel like when I write out all the details of the lesson plan, I feel like I have to memorize it because I can’t consult it while I’m teaching or I’ll lose the kids’ attention. So then while I’m teaching, I’m preoccupied trying to remember all the details of my perfectly planned sequence and don’t actually teach well or connect with the kids. One of my professors pointed out the benefit of writing out the detailed plan even if I don’t use it—it helps me think through the process so I can better anticipate and respond to needs. So my plan is to write out the detailed lesson plan anyway, and then just teach.
I feel more comfortable in front of the class and I’m having more fun teaching. It’s amazing to me the difference between teaching something for the first time and teaching it the second and third times. After I’ve been doing this for a year or two, I’ll be having so much fun! I mean, it already is fun, but once I have a really good handle on all the lessons, I can focus entirely on the kids instead of worrying about what and how I’m teaching so much.
That’s all for now. It’s been a great first two weeks and I’m eager to keep learning and practicing! What are some of the most helpful things you learned while student teaching? Or if you haven’t been there yet, what do you hope to learn?