By EVAN HARRELL
Most seniors take final capstone courses their last semester, some spend months in preparation for oral examinations and still others complete various projects like art shows or an internship. There is, however, another subset of students who fulfill those requirements and work eight-to-five, five days a week.
Student teachers spend one of their last two semesters at various schools in and around Scott County experiencing teaching in a very authentic fashion. As soon as these seniors come back to campus, they spend a week of seminar in preparation for the student teaching experience, gathering materials, refining methods and asking last-minute questions.
This year, these students are: Nicole Armes, Chelsea Chaffin, LeRon Collier, Autumn Eckler, Christina Marti, Morgan Taylor, Ben Thompson, Rachael Castillo, Ethan Daiker, Allie Englert, Evan Harrell, Mason Head, Van Isaac, Ann-Marie Miracle, Rebekah Moore and Breanna Stratton.
The student teachers then spend 14 weeks in one or two schools (depending on their certification) not only shadowing teachers but also taking on responsibilities leading up to one or two solo weeks in which they perform all the duties of a certified teacher, including planning for and teaching all classes. They are expected to arrive at the school and leave at the same time as the teacher and attend faculty meetings. The student teachers are also required to plan and fulfill a leadership project at the school in which they are placed.
Education professor Carol Williams is in charge of placing the student teachers in their schools. She had this to say about the experience, “Here at Georgetown College, our education students accrue 200 field placement hours prior to the student teaching semester. These field placement experiences help to create a climate where pre-service teachers can experience teaching in a variety of settings, focusing on positive strategies, activities, tips and tools that prepare them for the student teaching semester and ultimately their careers. Having this springboard into student teaching prepares our students to be able to create order out of chaos; by modeling self-motivation and self-discipline, they manage the most difficult day with skill and grace, while coping with the ever changing pedagogy.”
Add on the workload of preparing for capstone presentations, orals or a senior recital and it is amazing these students still have a social life. Allie Englert is an English education major; she says, “Although I’m thankful for the experience and I’ve learned more than I can say, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it is a challenging experience. Student teaching limits your time on campus and, consequently, limits your interaction with fellow students and faculty members. Still, student teaching allows potential teachers the opportunity to gain classroom experience prior to beginning a teaching career. I’m certain that the lessons I’ve learned from my cooperating teacher and time spent with students in the classroom will prove invaluable in years to come.”
Rachael Castillo, also an English education major, said, “At the risk of alienating other seniors whose senior comprehensives are undoubtedly challenging and time-consuming, I must admit that student teaching poses unique challenges, particularly for secondary education students, who also have senior comprehensive exams in their respective fields. Secondary education students complete our majors a semester early to allow for student teaching, and our last semester of college, we essentially work a full-time job. Student teaching requires 35 hours a week in class, plus a minimum of five hours after school each week and time spent grading papers and lesson planning at home. We do this while preparing for senior comprehensives in our majors, trying to stay connected on campus and, for some of us, writing senior theses. That said, I maintain that student teaching is the single most exhausting but also exciting and exhilarating project I have ever taken on. I only wish I had the time and energy to devote sufficient effort to all my responsibilities. For now, I am learning to do as all teachers must: Choose your battles.”
When asked how she managed to still be involved, history education major Breanna Stratton says, “I had everything planned out beforehand. I only brought home what I needed and left the rest at school. I made sure that I had fun my last semester of college instead of being stressed out.”
Throughout the experience, they have been compiling a student teaching portfolio they will defend to two education professors. The portfolio will then be reviewed a committee comprising area teachers and administrators. It will contain essential documents such as a resume, a philosophy of education, a professional growth plan, a classroom management plan and a teacher work sample with four to six lesson plans including pre-assessment and post-assessment data and an analysis of that information.
While some seniors may have mentally checked out of their last semester, these students are truly working until the end, but for those who feel education is their true vocation, it is just part of the journey. As Professor Williams says, “The student teaching semester provides the day-to-day, hour-to-hour reality of what it means to make a difference in the life of a child and affirms that teaching is not a job, it is a calling.” This semester’s student teachers will be presenting their portfolios next week beginning Monday. Their final official day of student teaching is Friday, May 3.