Tell us about the teacher preparation you attended. (You don't have to name the school if you don't want to.) Did you love it at the time? Did it prepare you adequately for teaching? How did you feel about it as you were in it? Does it look different now, looking back? Would you change it if you could? What did get out of it? What did you not get that you needed?
I am starting to love writing. Blogging is the first writing I have done. I have always preferred story telling. But writing expects reflection, invites connection. Tangents. So. Thinking back to last week’s topic of being a “teacher”, I have wrestled with my career long reluctance to be called a teacher. Now I see why. I was never trained to be a teacher. I went in blind and young. I went in with a suitcase of life experiences from a childhood of freedom, expectation, imagination, and self reliance, given to me by my parents, my family, and the farm.
I was woefully unprepared to teach actual children. My major was Shakespeare, and my minor was Urban Geography. Education focused courses were in my last year only. The science guy taught us how to fold paper to easily cut out letters for bulletin boards. Our language lady was reported to be excellent, but that year she was writing a book. The class was run by us - groups of 4 students took on what felt like a random topic and presented it. We had to take a media course. Nope - longer ago than that. I was taught how to run a mimeo, filmstrip projector, opaque projector, and the dreaded Film projector. Gimme an “oh ya Baby” if you can still hear the thwoop thwoop of the film end, or smell the burning of improperly fed film . . . The math sessions were gold. I inhaled her way of thinking, her approach, her philosophy, but I only appreciated a tiny bit of her at the time, in the moment.
Thank heaven for the student teaching program at this university. My first teacher was a Grade 4 sweetie who wore his heart on his sleeve, and was a Town Crier (in full costume) on his weekends. He was accessible, caring, firm, and adored by those kids. And me. He read the BFG out loud, and read to himself during the daily school reading time, wagging a finger at anyone who interrupted something as important as reading. I was only in his room for half a day a week, half the year. What a treat. He taught me more in a quick aside on the way to the gym than any university course ever had.
And then I got to do my first 8 week practicum. Miss Swann. Grade One. It was her first year teaching. She was told when she was hired that she would be a Cooperating Teacher. That 16 weeks would be given over to Student Teachers. She was brilliant. Quiet, serene, she looked into a child’s face, and they believed in her. Trusted in her. Like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Regardless of the swirl of responsibility and chaos that had to be a part of her life, she put the kids, then me, first. My first on-my-own-evaluated-by-a-bigwig lesson started beautifully, and then workers came and began removing the massive windows that filled one wall of the classroom. From the back of the room she at me like she looked at her children. She smiled, shrugged, and raised one eye brow (I am not making this up!) She leaned in and her whole body said “What will you do?” with utter confidence that I would figure it out. I have no memory of what I did. It is on some University form somewhere. Doesn’t matter. Someone believed that I could, so I did.
My final practicum had it’s own hard lessons. Grade 5. All the stereotypes - inner school, 19 boys, 5 girls, disengaged teacher who introduced me the first day and left the room. I tend to “misremember” things. I know I went into high gear. I know we did tonnes of hands on, build it, create it, model it stuff, and I found myself in it. I know that I heard Barbara Coloroso speak, and adopted her say it-mean it mannerism, combined with what I had learned from Miss Swann. I know I looked like a 12 year old and bought “teacher” clothes. I know my cooperating teacher liked what I did, but could only stay for evaluations because he found noise distressing. I know that I got reprimanded for not spending enough time in the staffroom : ) I know that I learned a lot.
Teachers trained me, not the university. Good or bad. Teachers continue to train me. It always comes down to the relationship an adult has with children. Always. The trust that children, reluctantly or willingly, place into your hands. Santa and the Tooth fairy. And Miss Swann. And me.