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?)