As I walked into student teaching, there were many fears, worries, and unknown answers. I have been working towards this semester for years and I am finally here. Hours of work, learning and field experience have helped me get to a place of confidence with taking on the role of a student teacher. I have started my first phase of student teaching at Cache La Poudre Elementary. I began the semester fully online teaching kindergarten through fifth grade on Google Meets and using a website called Seesaw to document completed work. My mentor teacher, Sue Awsumb-Conn explained that it is easiest for students to do one class period project because at home, things can be lost, damaged, etc.
For the past two weeks, I have met up with my mentor teacher every morning before we begin teaching for the day. We catch up, go over any questions, and plan our co teaching for the grade levels. At the beginning, she had me observe for the first two days, then once I understood the lesson, she allowed me to take over the demonstrations. This allowed me to learn how to manage my screen by switching from one camera to another to show my process. I have never had someone hold me accountable so much, but also check in on how I am processing all my experiences at the same time. Sue, after having 25 student teachers, knows how to balance the information she gives me. She understands that it is overwhelming at first so she knows what is too much and when I can be pushed.
I have noticed another aspect of online teaching which is the physical demands of it. There are physical demands when it comes to the career in general, but online teaching has made an impact on my body, but in the opposite way. Being online can be oddly draining. The physical stress that it puts on eyes, necks, and backs are horrible. If I cannot find a break throughout the day, I finish classes and realize I have not blinked or moved for over three hours. It has not only taken a toll physically, but mentally as well. It is hard teaching from behind a screen because a large part of teaching is the face to face connection that is created. When being online, you cannot control what students due other than mute. Classroom management must be less strict simply because the teacher’s structure and control are limited. Behavior has not been a huge issue, so I am thankful. Students have adapted to online learning as well as the etiquette that comes with. Everything that I have learned in my college journey has been directed towards in person instruction and classroom management, so it is a major learning moment when it comes to 20 kindergarteners on Google Meets. They can talk for hours.
The largest learning moment so far has been the amount of multitasking. Throughout my experiences at CSU, I have never fully understood the real multitasking a teacher endures every hour of the day. Tasks like attendance, classroom management, instruction, communication, participation, preparation, troubleshooting technology all with a young age can be an eye-opening experience from everyone. This makes me reflect on the different classes, content, and experiences I have had in General Education Classes and Art Education Classes. All of these were concentrated, focused, and separated every semester. Now, I am funneling all that I have learned into an 8-hour day with 120 students.
The best thing that is working is my willingness to do and try almost anything. I am learning so much and am only two weeks in. I am trying different lessons, demonstrations, and communication with students and teachers. One thing that I need to keep working on is the courage to relax and focus on student connection to the material. Right now, I am, in the best way possible, overwhelmed. I am learning to cooperate with my mentor teacher, classroom layout and management, and how to manage the entire student body. Once that becomes more comfortable, I am hoping to shift my focus on students and what they need from me.
My personal feelings towards student teaching and the thoughts that came with it were a lot. Waiting to begin my student teaching, I was very nervous because I had a hard time thinking I was capable of juggling so much with teaching and COVID. I have seen teachers struggle very hard this past year, so it was scary walking into that. My mental health has been a struggle all through college and has been a crazy roller coaster. I was scared that it was going to affect my teaching career, but I have put in a large amount of work to help me become capable, willing, and excited to work hard. As week two is ending, I am realizing that this it is HARD WORK, but I am simply capable.
I am learning to be gentle with myself, but also hold myself accountable for what I am responsible for. By having a routine every week, I believe that I will continue to grow in my personal teaching philosophy, specific logistics that comes with the role of being a teacher and understanding of community.
Hour by hour, I am learning what works and what does not. My mentor teacher has been teaching for 30 years and I am still experiencing her do the same. This is the most important thing for me to remind myself, and for others to remind themselves right now. The world is beyond chaotic and it is up to us on how we react, cope, and engage. I want to spend more time re-grounding myself as an artist. I have had so much work to do as a student teacher, I sometimes lose sight of the spark that started it all. I want to remain excited about creating along with my students.