My student teacher started with me last week, and it has me thinking about my responsibility to the next generation of educators. I remember student teaching. It was exciting, terrifying, and I thought I knew it all. I had done so many hours of observations in classes of all ages and even taught one or two lessons. I thought I was prepared. Boy, was I wrong.
Fast forward 15 years and I am the cooperating teacher, with this fresh-faced, eager young teacher probably feeling like he knows it all, too. So how do I help him merge the knowledge from his college classes with the real life students sitting (hopefully) before him.
I am going with the gradual release model. Me, we, two, you. He watches me, then we coteach, then we coteach some more, then he gets to do it. But what about the rest? What about the lesson planning, and the grading, and the interventions, and the reteaching, and the parent communication, and the PLC’s, and the behavior management, and the admin requests… and the list goes on. How do I gradually release all of that- without sending him running for the nearest real estate job?
If I’m being honest, and no one reads this really, so I can be honest– I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can hand it all over. It’s not that I don’t trust him, because I do; it’s that we need good teachers so desperately that I don’t want to scare him away. I don’t want to overwhelm to the point that he reconsiders this gigantic choice he has made, because we need him. We need those eager young teachers who think they are going to change the world because they keep us energized. When those of us who have been around a while start to lose our excitement, and the challenging students start to seem louder than the excited students, and we can’t see past the behaviors to get to the real problems, and it feels like support for us is wavering, we need those young, excited teachers to remind us of why we are there.
We need them to remind us that we started teaching because we wanted to change the world, because we loved seeing children’s eyes light up when they understood something new or felt special, because we wanted to reach just one child. So, I guess, as my student teacher gears up to start taking over some of my classes and learn how to balance all the weight of a teacher’s responsibilities, I have to prepare him for the realities of teaching, but still protect him from drowning in it all. Because we, the teachers and the students, need him and this generation of new teachers desperately.