Friday, April 13, 2012

This post is a work in progress

Student teachers are a lot like puppies.

Stay with me here for a minute, I think the analogy is a good one.

Student teachers are (mostly) young and have the enthusiasm of someone seeing things with fresh eyes. They are excited, eager. They have energy they don't always know what to do with. But unlike a puppy, you can't train student teachers with a rolled-up newspaper.

We all have to learn sometime, and someone has to teach us.

It doesn't really matter what we have to learn to do, drive a car or weld a joint, there is a look-learn phase and a try-do phase. Parents know these phases well, and understand that understand that there is a point at which you wince and would rather do it yourself. Let the child pour the milk, spill, clean it up, or  just pour the milk yourself. It's faster.

I didn't ask for a student teacher.

I really love to teach, and I missed my students when I was on sabbatical last year. Grade six is an important year, and didn't want to risk having a student teacher with my class for a good part of the winter term. But I let myself be convinced, and I am glad I did.

Ms Holliday has been wonderful, and watching her teach has given me a chance to revisit the foundations of teaching, refresh my philosophy, discuss the choices we make as teachers and why we make them. It's like when you bring a puppy into a house with an old(er) dog, and suddenly the old dog has a new found energy herself.

It takes time to make a teacher. It takes a great deal of hard work, long hours, and many discussions. What will you teach, why, how will you teach it, how will you know if they learned, what will you do next, how will you review, how do you make sure the learning is robust and lasts? What do you do when students misbehave, how do you handle homework, how do you reassure parents? We talk about what we plan to teach, what we just taught, how to do it better, what to do next. Think think think. Worry, wait, check, revise, review, reiterate. Repeat as necessary.

Like pouring milk for a little one, it is faster to do it ourselves.

But we learn by doing. We have to try it ourselves, sometimes spill, try again, move forward.

Boy, are we ever proud when they can do it on their own.

Ms Holliday is ready to do it on her own. She is ready for her own class, her own students. She has done some wonderful projects, practiced, reflected on what works for her, and for the students, and the students have become attached to her.

We all have become attached to her. her kind words, her quick smile, her thoughtful approach to what she does.

It is very difficult and it feels a little strange to hand over your class to a student teacher. It is probably harder to be the student teacher who has to deal with a hovering host teacher who is unable keep herself from interjecting fourteen times an hour. To teach is a wonderful gift, but to teach a teacher is to have the opportunity to help  beyond your own class, and have a part, however small, in someone else's success.

We all have to learn, then we all have to do. Ms Holliday is more than ready. As all teachers are, she is a work in progress, moving forward, changing, learning, becoming the teacher she wants to be.

We wish her calm students, well-funded classrooms, and a lifetime of loving the job.

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