Life Chronicles

Dear Student Teacher …

[Compiled from the first week’s worth of entries in a little journal I started keeping called “Letters to a Student Teacher.”]

Dear Student Teacher,

The journey has begun, and yes – you are still breathing. You might even be smiling right about now that you successfully came through the first week alive. Don’t worry. It will only get more intense from here. This first week? Piece of cake compared to what Week 6 will look like! But let’s not rush ahead.

Let’s just remember a few of the best [and worst] parts of this week so that when you’re plunged deep in the midst of it all in about a month, you’ll remember where you started and what makes it worth it in the end.

The Best:
– You met your goal of higher-level questioning – in at least one lesson this week. Remember that discussion you had with your young authors about writing? You asked them what the purpose of writing was, and boy did that open the doors of their imagination! They were soon the ones asking questions like – “What would the world be like if we didn’t have writing?” “Would we even have school if we didn’t have writing?” You could feel the pulse of learning, and it excited you.

– You survived a day without your master teacher. Knowing Mr. Sub ahead of time helped and the wearing of those independent teacher shoes was every bit as fun as you knew it would be. Really – you’ve done this before. CYT camp times 42 does give a person a bit of confidence in front of a class! This was the reminder that you needed that you can do this whole teaching thing.

– You got called “Mama” by accident for the first time!

– You encouraged students to share their writing in the “Author’s Chair” and give each other valuable feedback and wouldn’t you know … they did! Even the more reticent ones. It is possible to draw them out, never forget that.

– And the way that one little girl was even making an effort to make eye contact while she shared her story (“I was remembering back to Book Clubs & how we had to make eye contact during our presentations”) just warmed your heart!

– You introduced daily cursive practice and how readily it became a routine! A routine which handwriting-conscious you absolutely delight in. And hey – why not be creative and make all the daily sentences connect into a story??

– The look in that student’s eyes when he knew he was doing his best work.

– When you were able to encourage those two behavior students and tell them what they do well in behavior for their goal sheets.

The Worst:
– You fell asleep on the couch or in the middle of reading almost every night … the exhaustion piled up a little bit!

– You didn’t get done with report cards with your master teacher until 9:15pm on Thursday night (but at least you learned how to do them!).

– Yes, you did have to stop reading at the end of the day to have strict words with those boys messing around at the back of the carpet.

– That morning meeting where they were restless as all get out and couldn’t be quiet for more than 5 seconds!

– Time management – there was little work done on the edTPA throughout this first week due to everything else that had to be squeezed in in the evenings.

– Responding to texts was intermittent at best … the classroom kind of consumed all your time!

But in the middle of the week, you went out to coffee with Anna for an hour [side note: don’t ever buy that green “Evolution Juice” from Starbucks! It was like kale & lemon water. Disgusting.], and it soothed your brain to stop thinking about learning targets & “voices off” & differentiation & behavior issues & Smart Boards for just a wee bit of time in the middle of the week.

And at the end of the week, you met with your group of girls from Eastern and you all shared your stories & gathered around with laptops to attack the monster of the edTPA all together. Just knowing you weren’t alone gave you courage to face the next week.

Student Teacher, the path you have chosen will never be an easy one. On the days when you fall asleep worrying about the little one’s reading score never coming up, and you wake up thinking of the best seating chart to keep students from being distracted by one another … and you spend a six-hour day with 23 small bodies, trying to explain math concepts in just an hour to the whole class & then re-explaining them twelve different ways to individual students as they do independent practice; trying to encourage the kid who never reads to finally find a book; trying to keep up with the kid who reads 23 books in one trimester; trying to get those last 4 to just finish their stories and turn them in! trying to explain deep concepts in a way they will understand and keep with them for the rest of their lives; trying to keep them from killing each other at recess; trying to get them to type with all their fingers on the keyboard and save their documents to the right place; trying to get them to spell “finally” right and use punctuation in their writing; trying to not blow up when that same group of students is STILL talking three warnings later … remember:

Remember how much they love you and look up to you. Those hugs they give you excitedly when they first come in the door – they are spontaneous and freely given. They genuinely love seeing you every day.

Remember that milestones are accomplished silently in the in-betweens, not all at once. Remember that they’re taking steps, however small, and that one day they’ll get there & it will be in large part because of you.

Remember that they are children. And children need a lot of patience. But children will teach you to see the world in a new way if you will let them.

Remember to savor the moment. That every moment that is hard or challenging means you are learning something new – just like you tell the students. If it wasn’t a challenge, it wouldn’t be rewarding when they are successful in the end.

And remember that this is your calling – your “home” – your joy – your love of learning and children all wrapped up in a joyous gift every day.

All too soon it will be over – and you will miss this group of fourth-graders more than you can say.

Be grateful – and be excited for every new day that you get to be their student teacher.

Your Future Self

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