Category Archives: first year teachers

Can’t We Play Nice and Get Along?

Every fall I supervise a group of student teaching candidates. Each candidate is hosted by a site teacher in an elementary school. I have 22 this year in 4 schools. Also every fall, including this one, I have needed to make some adjustments in the assignments as the teacher and the candidate begin working (or not working) together. I recognize that it is a critical situation. My students will be in the those classrooms for most of the school year. They will take over as the teacher for three months beginning in January. Sometimes I am challenged in deciding whether a student teaching candidate should be reassigned to a new setting or told to ‘give it some time to make the adjustment and learn to work together.’ Of course, I am also tempted occasionally to tell someone to grow up; and I’m not necessarily talking about the candidates. This year one site teacher told her candidate to “sit in the corner and be quiet.” She didn’t want her to “get in the way” while she was preparing the classroom for the children. I can’t even imagine telling another adult to sit in the corner and be quiet. The reason her student teacher was there was to learn about and help set up the classroom. Another issue was a teacher who expects the candidate to work 10 hours a day, like she does, at the school. This student teacher has a young family and is still in school, besides being in the classroom 2 days a week. Her expectations are on the level of a veteran teacher, not for a student who learning to become a teacher.
So, here I am working out the current issues with this group. My candidates have been marvelous, but a few site teachers are causing the problems. I tell my students that this is a life lesson about getting along with coworkers and building a strong grade level team. This is challenging when you are working with different personalities and different value systems. I do challenge my candidates to make the best of the situation and keep smiling. The most important factor in this equation is the student. When tension exists among the adults, it undermines the positive classroom atmosphere that should be created for the children. Every year I am tempted to tell everyone, “Can’t we all just play nice and get along?”

A New Beginning

I just watched 23 of my student teachers graduate last week. Now they are actively interviewing for jobs as the local school districts are slowly posting their openings. Five of these soon-to-be new first year teachers already have a job. I was thinking recently about my first year of teaching back in 197… I always tell my students that everything I learned in college about teaching I did the first week. Subsequently, everything I said I would never say to children I had said by the end of the second week out of desperation. Then, I had to learn to be a teacher.

The teacher preparation programs are so much better now. I like how my students spend almost an entire school year in a classroom. They get to see, participate in and create procedures and curriculum from the beginning of the school year until almost the end. At the same time, they learn and plan classroom strategies in college courses and then return with that information to the classroom. This scenario worked well for my wonderful cohort group this year. There were several who actually surpassed their site teachers ability to create an even more efficient classroom.

Yes, times have changed. Teacher preparation programs are much better now. The breakdown in the system now comes when a new teacher does not receive the strong support necessary to continue the growth she started as a student. Even the best new teacher needs continual support and advice to be successful. I am hoping that each new teacher leaving my program will receive that support. I feel much like a parent sending my child out into the world. I hope each one will become the successful teacher I can see inside her/him today.