Surprise! (Not a Rerun!)

Posted on August 1, 2011Filed Under student teachers, Teaching | 5 Comments

Before I started student teaching, I thought I wanted to be a high school English teacher. I thought anything younger than ninth grade was of a species that I didn’t want to deal with. I wanted to read stories in class like “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol, and talk of doppelgangers and satire and samovars. Dead Poets Society hadn’t yet come out (still a year or so away), but I guess I kind of pictured that sort of thing. Although I hate that movie, now that I think about it. I thought that junior high–this was still at the beginnings of the “middle school” movement–was too close to elementary school, and I wouldn’t like reading the books, and I’d have to babysit too much, and blah, blah, blah.

Student teaching is an eye-opener for most people.  It’s easy for me to say this now, because I’m finished, but I think that a much larger percentage of teacher education should happen in the classroom. Much. Larger. Those places where the kids go to school at the teacher college should be copied everywhere. (More on this in a future post.) Most education undergrads have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.

My biggest surprises:

The daily preparation involved. I thought I could read ahead, ask some probing questions, be a bit nutty…et voila: lively, intelligent discussion and motivated attentive students. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I quickly learned that that rule you always hear them spout on lawyer shows, the one about never asking a question in court where you don’t know what the witness’s answer will be, is one of the Golden Rules of teaching.  (Remind me: there’s another future post.) The Boy Scouts got nothing on a good teacher.

The other issues you have to deal with. All I have to say to my younger self is…duh. What were you thinking? Of course, in the past 10 years or so, those outside issues have multiplied and intensified, but teaching has never been just about teaching. I shoulda knowed that even back then.

The utter lack of preparation my education classes gave me for the the real deal of teaching. Again I say to my young self…duh.  But really, I thought there might be some connection, something I “learned,” some “lesson plan” I’d written, something I could use in a real classroom. But no. Wait. I do still use a couple of books from those days; one about sentence combining and another about the writing process. Does that count?

The utter lack of supervision. I mean really. They threw some textbooks at me, said you have until the end of the quarter, we’ll watch you every now and then, let’s get together and chat at the end of the day…GO! I never had a principal in my classroom while I was student teaching at two different schools. After the first week or so, all my cooperating teachers pretty much dropped out of the picture. I liked it…I guess. Maybe a little help with curriculum would have been nice?

But my biggest surprise was that I liked junior high better.

Next time: Junior High Rules, High School Drools.

(How do you like the new look?)



5 Responses to “Surprise! (Not a Rerun!)”

  1. joan on August 2nd, 2011 5:55 am

    Love the new look. I look forward to the next post about Jr. High vs High School.

  2. Mrs. M~ on August 2nd, 2011 7:57 am

    I had the exact same experience as you. I was 100% positive that I wanted to teach high school until my student teaching. I did half in middle school and half in high school, and after it was over, my feelings had completely reversed. On my second day of student teaching at the middle school, my cooperating teacher was ill, so I had to teach all the classes that day and every day thereafter. Trial by fire! My cooperating teacher was absent most of the time I was there, so nearly all of my student teaching was done with a sub sitting in the back of the room reading a book. I wholeheartedly agree with all of your points about experience, supervision, etc. Educating our educators needs an overhaul.

  3. Meg on August 10th, 2011 1:36 am

    AMEN! I finished up teacher school in 2008 and had a trial by fire student teaching experience. It’s a little unnerving when your supervising teacher who’s done this 20 year says that she calls it a good day if the students stay behind their desks the whole period.

    I, too, thought that I wanted to teach high school and found I like the middle schoolers better. They’re just more fun!

  4. Mrs. Killion on August 11th, 2011 11:21 am

    At one point in my teaching career, I would have agreed with you. I began teaching high school freshmen and sophomores as a 22-year-old greenhorn… not wise. So I moved to a middle school for the next four years and LOVED it. Now, however, I’m at a disciplinary alternative school teaching middle AND high school students in the special ed. classroom… I have to say, I’m enjoying my high schoolers more than the middle. Not sure if it’s because I’m in a SpEd setting, and alternative setting, or simply because I’ve got a few more years under my belt.

  5. mrC on August 13th, 2011 10:22 pm

    @ Mrs. M – You obviously have what my high school wrestling coach called “intestinal fortitude.” I believe it is one of the qualities of the model junior high teacher, along with a thick skin, and the ability to adapt.
    @Meg – Before I got my current job, almost 20 years ago, I interviewed for a job at our district’s other junior high. The only questions the principal asked me were about various disciplinary situations and how I would handle them. Not one question about teaching. Sigh. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy (and didn’t believe me) when I told him that those kinds of situations didn’t really crop up in my classes. I didn’t get the job. Phew.
    @MissK – Send me your school e-mail, and I can send you info about clickers.
    @kelli – Go here: and follow the directions. Let me know if you have any issues.

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