I am sitting in the living room of my home on Saturday evening looking at what is left of the snow that fell last night. This coming Monday will be the first day of student teaching for the 2015/16 class. A few years back, one of our student teachers came to my office several months before her student teaching began, and asked, “Dr. Simpson, when I think about student teaching, I am scared out of my mind. Is that normal?” My response was, “Everyone is scared; you are willing to admit it.” By the way, this student teacher was chosen Outstanding Secondary Student Teacher of the Year.
I understand the pressure placed on our student teachers and their fear of failure. Maybe we expect them to be too perfect. The past Tuesday afternoon I shared with this class of student teachers and many of their public school cooperating classroom teachers three ideals we expect them to demonstrate. However, it is important to make the distinction between being idealistic and holding well-defined ideals. If I am idealistic, it usually means I have little to no understanding of the real world. However, idealism relates to those ideals we aspire to as a people. If idealism dies, we will never reach beyond the status quo.
The first ideal I shared was efficacy. We want our student teachers to believe they understand teaching and learning, and their students will learn. They can and will make a difference in the lives of their students. We believe in them and we want them to believe in themselves. They understand state standards and the connection of these standards to daily instructional objectives, instruction, formative assessment, and summative assessment. Now is the time to just do it.
The second ideal was compassion, and by compassion, I do not mean pity. Each semester most of our student teachers are shocked by the home situations of so many of their students. If they have pity for these students, they will not expect them to excel in their classes. But, if I have compassion, I will meet my students at their current academic and social level and push them to achieve higher because it is the only way I can help them rise out of their current state of existence.
The third ideal I shared was enthusiasm. By enthusiasm I mean the satisfaction I feel by being a teacher. Teaching is my niche, my calling, and I could never imagine doing anything else in my life. With enthusiasm the teacher plans lessons that come alive, and the students realize they are special in the eyes of their teacher.
I have just finished teaching the January Term course, Philosophical and Theological Foundations of Ethical Thought, in a class filled with our senior teacher licensure students. One of my students, K.F., described the struggle her parents went through before she was finally conceived. They experienced two miscarriages over a two-year span and decided to try one more time before they finally gave up. It worked! K.F. wrote…
“I almost was a “was not”….I am meant to be alive. It might have been difficult for me to get here. I might have been a last try, but I know I am here for a purpose. I fully believe that my purpose is to be a teacher and love every student, but especially the ones who seem toughest around the edges.”
Yes, K.F. will make a difference in the lives of her students.
Bless you my children...