Student teachers: is learning compromised when they take over learning?

Jessica Dang, Staff Writer

All teachers remember their first time: the moment they had to step in front of a whole classroom full of strangers.  For most, the moment was filled with overwhelming excitement and a sense of accomplishment — or a brewing fear as 31 sets of eyes look straight at them.

English teacher Chris Ramirez did his student teaching at Bear Creek last year and has almost completed his first full year as a classroom instructor.

“My first teaching experience was pretty unique and I definitely learned a lot from fellow Bear Creek English teachers and other teachers from other disciplines which was really helpful in learning how to become an effective teacher,” Ramirez said.  “It was really cool to see the different things that Bear Creek students did, which was a huge reason why I wanted to be a part of this campus the following year.”

Student teachers who express a genuine interest in students’ education and learning experience develop a positive atmosphere that enhances their relationship with students and helps promote an interactive and responsive classroom.

Student teaching lasts for a semester or two depending on the state’s requirements.  Aida Leyva is a student teacher who has been collaboratively teaching alongside Señor Andres Gil in Spanish 3 since the beginning of the semester.

“It is intimidating to go in front of students and try to teach them,” junior Hannah Fay said.  “[Señorita Leyva] may not have as much work experience as many teachers at our school but she is very competent as an educator and completely understands the material she’s teaching.”

Lesson plans developed by the master teacher are reviewed and discussed with the student teacher so the content remains consistent; because each instructor’s teaching style is different, however, the delivery of the content may differ.

“I don’t believe that learning is compromised at all because student teaching is part of a learning process to become a teacher,” Gil said.  “At some point you have to learn how to be a teacher and it is better to be a student teacher first and monitored before they are thrown in front of a class without any advice or modeling from a master teacher.  I have been teaching Spanish classes for 14 years and it took me that long to become well-acquainted with the textbook and the curriculum.”

The idea that perfection is unattainable is not is an important lesson for new teachers.

“I tend to be a perfectionist and I was told by my two cooperating teachers — Ms. Cancilla and Mrs. Morledge — that making mistakes is part of my teaching career,” Ramirez said. “I am going to continue to make mistakes the longer I teach and to learn from them and not dwell on them to the point where I’m not upset with myself.”

Most student teachers are eager to apply all of the theory-based lessons they have learned in the classroom to real-life instruction.

“Working as a student teacher allows me to apply everything that I have been learning in my four years at the University of the Pacific as well as the new standards of Common Core and state standards for teaching foreign languages,” Leyva said.

Student teaching is a requirement for teacher-education students to complete their teacher certification even if they were a teacher before.  In addition, student teachers often take an extra job to pay off their college tuition, creating a busy schedule.

“The toughest thing I had to overcome as a student teacher was time management because I was working a separate job while working here and I was taking my masters courses and that was pretty difficult,” Ramirez said.

Teachers chosen to monitor student teachers have had experience in all aspects of teaching: developing lesson plans and assessments, correcting homework assignments and tests and meeting with parents in conferences.

Gil said that engaging students to participate in class was the most challenging aspect of teaching when he was in his twenties, which is the age group of most student teachers.

“When I was close to my late thirties to early forties, I felt that I was able to connect with my students more than when I was in my twenties because my students look at me as a paternal figure even though I can be funny and approachable,” Gil said.  “Students are more willing to listen and know not question my knowledge.  But when you see a student teacher in their twenties the gap is not big enough so students unconsciously see student teachers more as a peer.”

Student teachers ultimately take full responsibility for planning and instructing classes of students under the mentorship of experienced teachers.

“It is still hard for me to accept that I make mistakes,” Ramirez said. “But I’m still learning.”