Friday, April 8, 2011

Reflections on Student Teaching

Earlier today, I completed my second of two student teaching assignments, the "clinical training" component of my bachelor's degree. One of my requirements is to submit a brief "reflection and self-evaluation" for each placement to my college supervisor. (I completed my middle school placement in January and early February, and my high school placement from mid-February through this week.) I have copied my responses to the prompts here.

What has this experience taught you about yourself as a teacher?


I have discovered many things about myself as a teacher through this first placement. I discovered that I am more flexible than I thought when it comes to actual instruction. I am quite good at developing highly structured and highly detailed plans, and I worried at first that I would not be able to respond appropriately to my students when they responded to my teaching in ways I had not anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I was able to use my plans more as an outline than a pair of handcuffs.

I also turned out better than I expected at classroom management. One of my large ensembles at this school, all sixth graders, was particularly prone to rowdiness. My cooperating teacher taught me a trick (refrain from saying anything until they stop talking, then wait that much time again before speaking), and I employed some of my own quick wit, and within a couple of weeks I was able to quickly put aside any distractions or interruptions and proceed with the lesson.


Though I still perceive myself as highly flexible in terms of instruction, I find that I still struggle in planning stages in anticipating how my students will respond – particularly students who have different learning styles than I did at their age. I often imagine how I would respond to a given lesson plan I am writing, which of course overlooks probably half of the students who will receive that lesson.

I also learned that, if I try hard enough, I can be very resourceful and creative in finding new ways to engage my students or get a point across. I found that I am especially resourceful in finding new ways to model or demonstrate ideas and in isolating the parts of an idea that are a particular challenge for students.

What has this experience taught you about your students and the process of learning?


This placement has taught me a lot about how students are best engaged – or at least these students in particular. The students I worked with responded best to me when I was serious about getting work done, highly confident of their abilities, complimentary of their achievements, demonstrably happy to be working with them, and happy in general about life.

I also found, in regard to the process of learning, how significant patterns are. Students always seemed to catch on to new material fastest when I would present it in a way that compared it to something they already new.


This placement has taught me that students need to be let in on my strategy for teaching material, at least to some degree. Simple explanations that begin with “the reason I’m asking you to try this…” often do wonders in helping the students focus their energies on the immediate challenge.

I have also seen first-hand the effect of positive reinforcement, namely in the simple acts of praise in front of peers. Finally, I have learned that varying from routine from time to time (while still maintaining order) has an incredibly motivating effect on students – something as simple as a new opening exercise to the class period seems to be very revitalizing.

How has your perception of the teaching profession changed as a result of your experience?


While I vaguely understood the concept beforehand, I realized during my time at my middle school just how many different hats at teacher has to wear, and how often a teacher must wear more than one hat simultaneously: lesson planning, curriculum design, and assessment (both as planned and when students need extra help); communicating with other teachers, parents, and administrators; keeping a neat and orderly office and classroom; various business-related duties; and, on occasion, supervising student teachers. Thankfully, multi-tasking and the like are strengths of mine.

I also have a better perspective now of the pressures teachers face from all sides – parents, administrators, and the students themselves, not to mention the personal pressures of family. Thankfully, my cooperating teacher was an excellent model of someone who has achieved a good balance.


One of the more difficult things for me to observe at this placement was the perpetually exhausted disposition of some veteran teachers (all three teachers in the department, including my cooperating teacher, were nearing the ends of their careers). While the still retain their skill and sharpness of mind from years of teaching the material, as well as professional development, many had attitudes of “I can’t wait to retire.” This was mildly discouraging to me. But it made me aware, as had my last placement, of the constant pressures teachers face, not only from students, but from parents and administrators, and how draining that can be if one is not careful to look after one’s own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.


In all, student teaching was an incredibly rewarding experience. It has been the clearest affirmation yet of the Lord's call for me to enter the teaching profession. I eagerly look forward to seeing how God might use me in the lives of young people.

I want to also publicly thank Dr. Tim Yontz, my college supervisor/advisor, and my two fantastic cooperating teachers, Mrs. Karisa Scheifele and Mr. Paul Loucas. Thank you also to everyone who prayed for me and encouraged me throughout my student teaching experience.

This is Rubio, over and out.

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