Student Teaching: Day One

AcadAccelLearnBy Jess Burkard — For some reason, as I walked into the Milwaukee Academy of Accelerated Learning, I thought I was going to have some sort of movie moment where the birds are singing, the sun is magically shining brighter, and the people inside are smiling happily while working.

Of those three things, only one actually happened. Can you guess?

It wasn’t the sun (it was still too early) and it wasn’t the birds either. Upon arrival, I saw all smiling faces. It may not have been a movie moment per say, but it was something much better and much more special. It was real happiness.

During my first week at the Milwaukee Academy of Accelerated Learning, I may have heard plenty about hardships, but they were always overshadowed by things that the teachers loved about their school and their job. Although we may have spent the week in professional development meetings and preparing the classrooms for students, there was a lot to learn. Dynamics between people, schedules, new curriculum, and different hours were all learning opportunities presented to me in this first week.

However, the lesson that had the greatest impact on me came from a video we watched on our last day in meetings. It was a TED Talk with 40 year-old teaching veteran, Rita Pierson, and her lecture was titled “Every Kid Needs a Champion.” Primarily, she talks about the “value of human connection” and how every child needs someone who will not give up on them. One quote in particular stuck with me: “The tough ones show up for a reason. It’s the connection, it’s the relationship, and while you won’t like them all, they will never know that.” Good student-teacher relationships are the grounds to making a difference in the classroom and in the lives of your students.

Perhaps this lecture left such an impression because it followed the morning after a night of Parent Orientation. Now, the first time I heard about the orientation, I succumbed to a brief moment of panic. Parents of my students have always been a source of anxiety for me, and quite honestly, a source of anxiety for any teacher, but up until now, I have not had the pleasure of being available to parents. As a field student, I could be easily sheltered and protected from the parents. However, now, as one of their child’s teachers, I simply can no longer hide behind another teacher.

Going into the Parent Orientation, I had the expectation of being skewered and grilled by the parents. I figured that they wouldn’t exactly be too happy that a young, less experienced college student would be teaching their students throughout the next two quarters. Instead of coming face-to-face with my nightmares, I met parents who will probably challenge me, but also care deeply for their children and have a deep respect for my position. I met the kind of parents who wish to give whatever they can to us to make things easier and better teach their children.

Thus, the Rita Pierson’s lecture left such an impact on me because I realized that these are the parents of the students I will be forming these kinds of bonds with, the ones that I might deeply influence. I had a right to be so nervous. With parents that care so much about their kids and their well being, leaving them in my hands to make an impression on them, to teach them, is not something to be taken lightly. Now realizing that my students’ parents are not a bunch of sharks waiting to chew me up and spit me out, I have a higher level of respect for them. It adds to the excitement of teaching.

So at the end of week one at the Milwaukee Academy of Accelerated Learning, I can say I am more prepared than I thought I would be to start my five months of student teaching.

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