By Mariclare Kanaley — The first time I met Mr. Brian Weisse, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
It was the spring of 2011– the end of the semester just before I was to start my student teaching; he was assigned to be my cooperating teacher, or “co-op,” as I called him. I got lost on my way to the school for my first meeting with him, couldn’t find the front door, and my only assignment for that day was to “bring a lot of bags” to carry all the books he was going to give me.
In our introductory meeting at Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School, he spoke of the ‘international baccalaureate’ and ‘20th Century Grading’ and ‘internal assessments’ – all things I’d come to know quite well over the next few months, but had no clue about then. He sent me off with a bunch of papers and books (as promised) and I left in a small panic, overwhelmed by the unexpected.
I spent the summer of 2011 worrying about how to run my classroom, how much help I’d need, and to be honest, whether I really wanted to be a teacher after all. I’m pretty sure I e-mailed Mr. Weisse daily with questions. I sent him rough drafts and copies of assignments and rubrics, to which he assured me that I’d do just fine and that maybe I should calm down. It was that advice that he offered in many different ways throughout those 5 months. The version that stuck with me most was, “Mariclare, take the Bobby McFerrin approach to teaching… Don’t worry, be happy. If you worry, well… you’ll die.”
Needless to say, I adopted his approach to teaching. I spent the semester learning from the best teacher I’d ever had. I learned that I loved every minute of my job, from the frozen computer screens with lost, unsaved documents to the extensive IB Psyc essays whose grading kept me late. Brian Weisse showed me, quite clearly, why I want to be a teacher, and demonstrated the meaning of this irrepressible love for learning – something I always knew I had, but never had the words for. He did this all without even knowing it had been done.
My student teaching experience was exemplified by a collaboration I hadn’t known before. I admired the excitement Brian brought to his classes and the knowledge he had of his content. I admired the respect he demanded of his students and the ease with which he taught. I admired the fun he created in his classroom and the contagious joy and care endlessly present in room 301. Mostly, I admired the passion he showed for the field of education and the tenacity with which he spoke of his beliefs. It was in that classroom that I found my love for teaching, which is a gift of inordinate value.
I’d like to thank you, Brian, for being the teacher to dispel my disillusionment and bewilderment. Your gift has inspired a journey, and I can only hope to someday share the gift that you so graciously shared with me.
Mariclare Kanaley, EDUC ’11, was a Secondary Education, Psychology, and Broad Field Social Studies major. She is currently employed at Shorewood Intermediate School. Her future plans include attending graduate school in Forensic Psychology to research and develop preventative strategies to help improve the success of at-risk youth in both academic and social settings.