Four Tabor College education majors discovered they knew more and less about teaching than they thought as they completed student teaching at Marion Elementary School this spring.
Kendra Flaming worked with Debbie Allen teaching second, third, and fourth graders who were receiving special services.
“I learned to trust in my education,” Flaming said. “Sometimes I feel like we go into student teaching not feeling as prepared as we like to feel. Once I was in it, I realized I do know what I’m doing.”
Andrea Acker, who taught in Tina Hague’s fourth-grade class, found out her classes didn’t prepare her for everything.
“There’s a lot about student-teaching you can’t teach in class,” she said. “There’s not a course in getting your students from the classroom to the lunchroom. We have some strategies for classroom management, but it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re trying to get your class of 20 kids to be quiet and lined up.”
Education has changed since the Tabor students were in elementary school, with greater emphasis today on individualizing learning experiences and project-based learning. Jessie Todd, who has been teaching fourth grade with Rebecca Hofer, said those changes make teaching rewarding for students and teachers.
“When they’re enjoying it and engaged and get things out of it, you get fulfilled as a teacher, because they love it, they enjoy it, they engage, and they’re getting it,” Todd said. “That makes you feel good.”
Kate Graber, who has been in Ginger Becker’s second grade class, said she’s learned that using music to teach is often more effective with students that other instructional methods.
She said students learned to name all 50 states in alphabetical order by singing.
“They pick it up really quickly when you sing it to them,” Graber said. “That’s been new, figuring out ways they learn the material in a format they like.”
Todd said teaching goes beyond academic learning to being aware of how children interact in the learning environment, and finding ways to help them be successful.
“One girl would never participate in class,” Todd said. “Before school started, I talked to her and said, ‘This is what I’m going to ask in this period, let’s think about it,’ and worked with her individually on it. I called on her, she said the right answer, and now she’s just built that confidence.
“It’s really important to have a good relationship with the kids individually to know exactly what they need to help them learn.”
All but Todd have secured teaching positions for the fall. While they’re aware of recent issues with education budget cuts, none are deterred from teaching.
“There’s always going to be negatives to focus on, or you can choose to focus on the positives and the kids you’re trying to teach,” Acker said.
“Even next year isn’t guaranteed,” Graber said. “There are already first-year teachers that have to find another placement because of budget cuts and teacher movement. You have to make do with what is put in front of you.”