Surprised by challenges

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Loves the beach, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. Loves the beach

    Loves the beach Companion

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    Sep 11, 2011

    I've heard a lot of comments lately made toward new teachers who are surprised at the challenges they face as a first-year teacher. I've been thinking a lot about my experience student teaching and how that shaped my view of teaching.

    I always wanted to be a teacher, because I wanted to make learning enjoyable for kids. I wanted to inspire, and I wanted to make an impact. During my student teaching, I rarely had the opportunity to actually teach a lesson created by me. I mostly sat and observed or taught a lesson that my cooperating teacher asked me to teach, even if it wasn't a lesson I really thought was all that great. I rarely had the opportunity to plan lessons. My cooperating teachers usually did those things, and it only took them a few minutes. My one big job was to grade papers. They rarely talked with me about the hard parts of their jobs. They basically told me to be firm and be prepared, and I would do fine. I graduated from college with pretty much no idea what I was about to get into.

    I was very shocked at the challenges I faced as a first year teacher. I had NOOO idea that teaching was so hard. I have come to accept the challenges, as they are a part of what I do. I also have so much more appreciation for my teachers growing up who put their best into the classroom. I think that some people, like myself, never dreamed that teaching would be such a challenging job. I am wondering if others have had the same experience student teaching as I did, and if they also felt the way I did when they started their first job.
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sep 11, 2011

    Didn't your school set specific parameters for your student teaching experience?
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Sep 11, 2011

    I think that your experience is probably more the norm than the exception. Going to college and learning about teaching isn't the same as actually teaching. Even our methods classes don't do a good job preparing us for the realities of teaching, like classroom management and time management.

    My student teaching experience was a little different than yours. My cooperating teacher gave me full control over planning and delivering the lessons. By the time I entered student teaching I had already been teaching, by myself, college courses, so I was already somewhat experienced at that. What my cooperating teacher didn't let me do, however, were any of the housekeeping tasks like taking daily attendance, writing report card comments, etc. Those were the things that I wanted to do, because those were the things that I hadn't had to do for the college classes that I was teaching. When I got my first (and still current) teaching job, I felt a little bit flustered at first because I had to get used to all those important housekeeping tasks right away without any practice.
     
  5. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Sep 11, 2011

    You should let your university know you weren't allowed to truly student teach. Maybe they need to change their program.

    There are some things you need to learn on the job like how you want to organize your ungraded and graded papers, but I felt very prepared by my university. I knew what I was going to be expected to do.

    Maybe the universities are not preparing teachers as well as they used to? I don't know the answer, but it does seem like many new teachers are quitting weeks into their new positions. I never heard of anyone doing that until the past few years.
     
  6. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    Sep 11, 2011

    In my opinion, from observations and conversations with many teachers, we need to totally rethink the way we train teachers and improve it drastically.
     
  7. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Sep 11, 2011

    I haven't experienced many challenges at all yet. My cooperating teacher let me do what I want and would leave the room to work on drama stuff. I did all housekeeping stuff, planned lessons, graded, etc... The hardest thing so far was planning the first day.
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 11, 2011

    What could your university have done to better prepare you?
     
  9. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Sep 11, 2011

    Alice, I'll include some things that my university did that I think really helped me.

    1. As soon as my cooperating teacher felt confident that I could manage the classes, she almost never stayed in the classroom when I taught. She observed one of my classes per day and rotated those throughout the week. I could always ask her to stay and help if I had any issues but that rarely happened.

    2. My cooperating teacher had me do everything that a normal teacher would do. I did parent/teacher conferences, all the planning, all the grading, etc...

    3. I had the best, most creative adviser ever. He knew exactly how to be an effective teacher because he was still out in the field three days a week working with high school kids. He never lost touch with why we were there like some other professors did. He was also always reachable and still is. I've e-mailed him a couple times since I got hired and have received awesome advice from him.

    Even more than that, I think what prepared me the most was where I got hired! I have two other wonderful, young first year teachers. We also have about 12-14 new hires total for the year out of a staff of 30 so I never felt like I was the new kid or the odd one out. Everyone has been so approachable that if I have questions I can pop in and visit ANYONE, not just my mentor. Everyone also constantly asks me how things are going and I'm always honest with them. I've received some awesome advice about our troublesome 8th grade class because I've talked to 4 or 5 of their past teachers and all of the teachers who currently have them. To me this is the most important part that has helped me feel confident teaching. I have a wonderful, supportive staff and great kids!
     
  10. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Sep 11, 2011

    I'm jealous. My cooperating teacher never fully let go over her classroom control. She also made sure I had a good sobbing session at least once a week as she dragged me over the coals (that's for another thread). My dad had a totally different experience. His cooperating teacher (also my godfather) team taught with him on the first day. The students only saw my dad after that until his time was up and the cooperating teacher had to take the class back full-time. Dad's CT and he met in the faculty cafeteria and at home to go over the particulars.
     
  11. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Sep 11, 2011

    I feel overwhelmed; mainly because I student-taught in a school that was completely scripted and it was considered a sin to veer from the script. So during my ST I didn't really have to plan much-just review what was in the script, make sure I understood the "big idea" and then recite my lines. :p

    Like a PP, I did grade but never used the online gradebook or took attendance. I had complete control of the class but only for lessons and not housekeeping.

    Another major disservice was my split placement- 7 weeks in one class and 7 weeks in another. I just got comfortable and I had to move and start over in a new class rather than continue to grow in that class. My CTs were amazing teachers but I just don't feel that experience really helped much. I think I learned more subbing!!

    Now I teach at school where the standards are the curriculum and I have complete freedom. I pick my own books and develop my lessons from scratch. It is great, but exhausting as a first year teacher because I am basically planning on the run. I never feel ahead and work is on my mind 24/7--I even dream about it!
     
  12. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Sep 11, 2011

    I didn't have student teaching. I had a lot of experience planning and running a classroom periodically because the teacher I worked for as an aide knew I wanted to teach. Here are some challenges I had for a bit:

    *I was used to planning lessons but not a full day. That took time to build efficiently. I was the master of thinking on my feet though and have it be applicable.
    *I had never followed, tracked or written an IEP and all of our students have one.
    *Aides had to go to department meetings but I didn't realize how many meetings teachers had to constantly go to. My teacher had volleyball coaching that she volunteered for so she was out for that.
    *I didn't realize how much little paperwork and requirements would eat up time.
    *I was used to prepping for a few lessons. I loved planning and prepping big for those lessons. I was surprised at how many hours it really took to prep for a full week and how often I had to choose my lessons partially based on my ability to produce the prep in time.
    *It took time to develop my pacing effectively and be able to follow our district's pacing guides.
    *It took time to learn how to effectively juggle all those extra people involved on the team.
    *I had never taught guided reading before so it took time to build my skills there and I had many meetings with the reading team to ensure I was on track with conducting, reading and applying what the weekly assessments told me.

    Honestly, I was a bit surprised not at how big the job was but at how overwhelmed and stressed out I was at times. When I was an aide, I was also a grad student, had tutoring jobs, planned word study lessons for the week, held an after school club, and taught a professional learning workshop series regularly. I thought I was used to juggling quite a bit.

    Some things were easy for me though.

    *I was good at thinking on my feet.
    *It was easy for me to see students as individuals and think that way as I planned my lessons.
    *I was pretty good at coming up with word study and other various language arts lessons.
    *I had experience in planning and teaching lessons in every subject area.
    *Some topics I had seen taught before so I had a small bank of ready made ideas to pull from.
    *I was used to people popping in and out of my room and watching. I was still a little nervous at times but overall this was not something I generally worried about.*I already knew my school and staff so I didn't have to get used to all the rules and procedures of a new work place.
    *I was good at classroom management.
    *I was good at thinking proactively and restructuring things if things weren't going as planned.
    *I actually enjoyed parent communication.
     
  13. Loves the beach

    Loves the beach Companion

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    Sep 11, 2011

    They did have parameters. Another student teacher and I approached the dept. about our experiences. We were told that we could learn about teaching in any placement, even through negative experiences. Which I agree with, but I really wanted to be exposed to more of what teaching was. I wanted to find out if it was really what I wanted to do. My impression was that the dept. seemed to think that everything would turn out ok in the end. I was pretty niave as a college student, and looking back I wish I had made myself more clear about what was going on. I was scared to approach my cooperating teacher about my concerns, because I was afraid that I would be overstepping my boundaries. I don't expect to be fully prepared for a full-time job, but I feel like my college neglected the true needs of the education majors.
     
  14. Loves the beach

    Loves the beach Companion

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    Sep 11, 2011

    All throughout college, I kept thinking, "When are we going to learn how to teach?" I had no clue how to manage a classroom, how to build relationships with kids and parents, or how to plan a lesson. The psychology classes didn't really help. Even the classes that were supposed to tell you how to teach didn't help. Only two people who taught those classes had never even been in an elementary school, and that had been years ago. I am very grateful for my degree, but I feel like my money was mostly wasted as far as learning goes. After college, I found a couple of teacher mentors and ordered a lot of books on classroom management, teaching math and reading, things like that. I honestly feel like I learned more during that time than at college. I don't understand why my classes were so out of touch with reality.

    So I guess I would have liked to have had classes that really talked honestly about the challenges and rewards of teaching. Classes taught by people who really know the reality of being in a classroom today. Classes that told you what other teachers do when faced with certain problems. Student teaching in a variety of grade levels with a variety of teahcers. I wish I had graduated with confidence that comes from knowledge.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 11, 2011

    Your college NEEDS this feedback!!!!!
     
  16. Momzoid

    Momzoid Companion

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    Sep 11, 2011

    Student teachers can not do everything the regular teacher does. The ones I had could not take attendance or do some of the paper work, especially using the online grade book. These things were MY responsibility, and MY name was attached to it. I can't let others into my accounts to access the grade book or take attendance. I do expose them to these things, show them what it looks like, discuss the kinds of paper work I am responsible for. In the end it is my class, I am responsible for what is taught and the paper work that goes with it. .:soapbox:
    Having said that I LOVE having student teachers! I let them take over as soon as they are ready. They plan lessons, grade papers, create projects, attend IEP meetings as an observer. We BOTH participate in the parent conferences. I have had three students teachers. Each was unique. My only complaint was that their supervising professor NEVER came to observe them. :dizzy:
     
  17. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Sep 11, 2011

    During my student teaching, I never taught. I was strictly inclusion, basically an aide. My cooperating teacher never let me handle anything on my own, so therefore my student teaching is a breeze.

    Now that I'm actually teaching, I feel the same way you do. It is SO SO SO much harder than I was prepared for. Now I teach three classes and do two inclusion, and I feel like college did not prepare me at all. Then again, all of the things that overwhelm me are things that student teaching couldn't possibly prepare me for. It's the combination of writing IEPs, planning lessons, collecting data and keeping up with organization/housekeeping tasks that really gets me. A student teacher can't do EVERYTHING a teacher does, and therefore will never really know how hard it is until they're in the trenches.
     
  18. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    It must be a difference in programs and district regulations, then. Here, student teachers are supposed to take on the responsibilities of the cooperating teacher, with the guidance of the CT of course. The student teacher is fingerprinted and background checked just like any other teacher or substitute specifically so they can have access to student records like the gradebook and attendance. As long as the cooperating teacher is truly providing all the supervision and support that s/he is contracted to provide, there should be no problem with a student teacher accessing those records. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the cooperating teacher to monitor and verify that the student teacher entered the records correctly, not to prevent the student teacher from having any access at all. Seriously, what's the point of even having a student teacher if the student teacher isn't going to be allowed to do the things, all the things, that a regular teacher does during the day?
     
  19. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I agree. I was allowed to take attendance and do grades, both of which were on powerschool on my teacher's laptop. I had 100% control of everything each of my teachers did (I had two placements since I'm dual certified) for almost an entire semester each. I think it does depend on the school though. My dad admits that his school never lets STs fully take over all of the teaching because of state testing- their P takes the attitude that the school is still responsible for the scores even if the ST is teaching. We had an ST last year in 3rd grade and she only taught full time for 2 weeks! I couldn't believe it. That's certainly not enough time to even really get a feel for what the job is like.

    Personally, for my special ed ST placement I was placed in a full inclusion school where I was not allowed to pull kids out at all, and then I got a job as a resource teacher in a pull out program, so obviously the job responsibilities are vastly different. There were some things that I wasn't expecting- for example, in my ST there were many special ed teachers at the school and my CT wasn't one of the ones that was involved in planning/running/participating in the RtI process at all. At my school, I was the only special ed teacher (now there are two) and I'm expected to run it. I was not prepared for that! In any field placement in college, I was also only responsible for 1 or 2 grades, but now I'm responsible for k-5. That was a huge adjustment as well.
     
  20. soleil00

    soleil00 Comrade

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    Sep 11, 2011

    I think it is definitely the university and coop school in terms of how closely related your student teaching is with your first year.

    My student teaching experience was a JOKE. I was more her aide. I was in the room a grand total of maybe half the day, the other half I was running errands (leaving school sometimes) or running copies. I taught 4 lessons during my 12 weeks and those were the days that my supervisor was there.

    My first year? It's hard. It's horribly hard. I wasn't prepared and I know it, but I'm making the best of it and I'm learning from my screw-ups. I've messed up quite a bit, but I always learn from what I've done. I was most definitely not expecting this though, in all honesty. Even my coop teacher (in Kinder) from student teaching doesn't do the level of work as I do in 1st. So I really never saw anyone have the amount of work that I do.

    I finished my copies for this week and I am actually shocked at the sheer amount that my school expects the kids to do in a week.....

    [​IMG]

    Those are my copies for this week! :eek:
     
  21. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I have been surprised at the lack of control cooperating teachers are willing to relinquish. I have had one student teacher. She was placed with me at the last minute because of some problems with her original cooperating teacher at the last minute. He basically told her as soon as she came in that he was not going to leave her in the room alone, he would be critiquing her every day, and she would only be teaching his lesson plans. Well how is she supposed to get a real view of teaching?

    Another student observer I had - who was wonderful, by the way - called me during her student teaching for advice because her cooperating teacher was refusing to relinquish any control. No lesson planning, no grading, little control over discipline. I told her to talk to her supervisor. Before she had a chance, the cooperating teacher came back and said she wasn't doing anything or taking any responsibility and didn't want her there anymore! And the university wouldn't back her up. They ended up making her re-do student teaching.

    Obviously student teaching isn't going to be exactly the same as having your own classroom, but I tried to make the experience as close as possible for my students. I tried to explain why I made the decisions I did, what the underlying issues were that might be going on in the school, and I took them to every meeting we had.

    ETA: Also, I see two types of teachers who want to be a co-teacher - those who really want to give a new teacher a learning and mentoring experience, and those who want to lighten their load. Sadly, these are the times that student teachers are used more like aides.
     
  22. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    To be fair to teachers....

    Some universities do not spell out the requirements. Each university does have different requirements. Sometimes the students aren't aggressive enough to share what it is they need to be doing in their program even when asked. No one really teaches teachers how to be a good cooperating teacher and some didn't have that in their program. Some student teachers don't want to do their part, don't reliably do what they say they are going to do, bail at the last minute, etc. Everyone is a product of their own experiences. Sometimes it can build up.

    I'm saying that with LIMITED experience but I can see how it can eventually get to that point. Also, not all teachers are created equal. Some are just punching the clock. So there is going to naturally be variation in the quality on that end as well.
     

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