I would like to reflect back to the first day that I met my fifth grade students, for my student teaching assignment.
The very moment that I walked into the fifth grade classroom to introduce myself, before beginning my assignment, I felt nervous, about the manner in which I would be received by everyone, including the teacher. My stomach was knotting up, and I wanted to run in the opposite direction. Those first moments in the classroom can feel agonizing, but I survived, and so will you. I remembered what a wise old owl (my mom) once told me, some years before. “Relax, breathe deep, and take ownership of the situation.” Oh yes, and above all “don’t sweat the small stuff, and by the way; it’s all small stuff’ “.
I scanned the classroom, and then I replaced my anxious, nervous, kind of lost in the wilderness type of facial expression with my kind, comedic empowered expression, and said, “Wow, what a beautiful bunch of children.” They laughed and one of them blurted out, “Wait..until you get to know us a little; you’ll change your mind.” I then smiled, and glanced back-making eye contact with all of them. My thought at that moment, that very instant, was to let them know that I acknowledged them, and respectfully identified them as unique individuals. I wanted them to feel comfortable with me, so I sarcastically joked back.
I introduced myself and told the kids that I would be hanging around for about nine weeks. I was due to begin my assignment, in this class, the following week, so I wanted to take the mystery out of what I would be doing in their class. I explained that a student teacher is just like they are-a student. I told them, “The difference is that I am learning how to teach”. They seemed glad to hear that I could relate in some form to them, in being a student.
I quickly familiarized myself with the energy between the students and the teacher. Then, I intuitively took a brief moment to understand the teacher’s emotional position. She seemed exhausted, and had no tolerance for distractiveness, or the sounds that wriggly fifth graders can make. The students appeared apprehensive about her as their teacher. I felt concerned about the dynamics of the classroom, but I smiled politely as I contemplated how I would make learning fun for them, and keep them engaged.
It is important to be aware of the dynamics of a classroom, and the personal boundaries of each individual. I took note of some of the diversities of the student population, of the students who had special needs, as well as the students who spoke another language. I realized that differentiating lessons may play an important role in this classroom experience. I then communicated my intentions as a guest in their classroom, and briefly let them know that positive thinking was key to learning about a subject.
As a student teacher, it is vital to have a grasp on your position as a guest in someone elses classroom. I kept in mind that I am a visitor, and should never overstep my supervising teacher’s teaching boundaries. Communication is the key, so my teacher and I had a brief chat to familiarize ourselves with one another. We quickly talked about our teaching strategies. Our conversation was short and light. Through this preliminary meeting we were able to briefly exchange ideas, share methodologies and discuss classroom management in approaching teaching her students. We even laughed a little, to smooth out any possibilities of rough edges. From our chat, my supervising teacher gained the understanding that I am very tolerant, and even-keeled. Together as teachers, I felt that we would create a good balance for teaching her students, but above all I knew that from her vast experience as a teacher, I could gather a lot of information about teaching.
My introduction proved to be rewarding. As a result, I changed my anxiety to anticipation for my term with my new students. On the same note I put my new students, and my supervising teacher at ease, about me.
My advice to new student teachers is to take the mystery and anxiety out of the student teaching assignment. Preview the classroom-take a quick glance of how everything is positioned. Meet the teacher and discuss ideas and expectations that you each have for each other. Schedule a time to review the textbooks to be used, and lessons to be taught. Most important, introduce yourself to the students. Communicate your intentions as a teacher, and prepare them for your visit, before you begin your assignment. Keep in mind that you are a guest, so review your classroom etiquette as a student teacher, with your professors. Your success as a student teacher begins with your introduction.