Being an education major at Keene State College (KSC) is much more than just a traditional classroom education. These future teachers have the chance to get in front of students and be the classroom teacher themselves through the Methods I, II and student teaching experiences, which are requirements to completing the education degree.
Senior secondary education and history major Phoebe Buckman is currently finishing up her final step in completing her undergraduate degree with student teaching. She considers her experience in methods and student teaching to be “pretty positive.”
“Methods I, I was placed in a middle school and found that despite my previous feelings, I love middle schoolers. The teacher I worked with was amazing and I learned a lot from observation with him. I team-taught one lesson there and really enjoyed dipping our toes in the water so to speak. Methods II, I asked to be placed in a middle school. I was also able to roll into student teaching at the same placement,” Buckman said.
She continued, “I love, love my school and the environment. Each class has their own distinctive personalities and that has been great experience. My placement as the only social studies teacher in a rural school can be time consuming and difficult to prepare for at times, but it is also awesome to be part of a small, interconnected community like this.”
Buckman said learning as a student herself in the KSC classrooms has been important, but being the teacher herself has given her the real life experience.
“You haven’t really planned a lesson unless you have real kids and their challenges to anticipate. You also don’t realize until you are actually teaching that nothing goes as planned. You can do your best, but things change all the time,” Buckman said.
She gave an example of how her lesson plan was planned out perfectly, but she ran into some obstacles. She said, “Today, I planned to have my eighth graders watch three different YouTube videos and answer questions on them. However, literally at the last minute, as the kids were logging onto their chromebooks, we found out they were still Smarter Balance testing in the building and so we couldn’t stream anything. So I had a 60 minute class I couldn’t do my lesson plan with. Instead, I had them write their own scripts to a YouTube video.”
Buckman continued, “That’s the kind of stuff you won’t get in the classroom at Keene State, only experience will help prepare you. Also, teaching during testing is another thing you just have to do and teaching before spring vacation, let me tell you it’s an experience and something no matter how much I heard about it, didn’t really ‘get it’ until this week as I am teaching through it.”
Buckman said it is a requirement to complete three solo weeks in which the KSC students teach on their own and have sole responsibility of students as if they were actually the teacher. Buckman has had the opportunity to solo for six weeks straight. She said because of this, she believes she has had the chance to grow as a teacher and truly experience what it is like to have an actual teaching job.
“I feel like I have been as well-prepared as you can to be a classroom teacher next year. I have been applying for jobs and my experience has helped me build an impressive portfolio, which I have bringing to interviews. I am currently one of the finalists for a teaching position and believe my extensive experience has helped me get that far,” Buckman said.
Buckman’s decision to become a teacher came from “being a bossy kid and always playing school.” Her mother was a teacher and Buckman spent lots of time growing up in schools.
“I was that kid in class that helped everyone else with the work when they didn’t understand. I was also a tutor for a while for a student who had medical concerns and could not always attend school. As I got into high school, I tutored my classmates and cousins for their classes. I really enjoyed the challenge of reaching students who were struggling with material. I also loved the feeling when someone would have the light bulb go off. As a result, I decided to do an internship my senior year of high school in a freshman social studies class. I loved it and decided I absolutely wanted to teach. I was especially inspired by the idea of interdisciplinary classroom and it’s still one of my professional goals to be certified in social studies and English,” Buckman said.
Buckman touched on how busy student teaching can be and the financial impact it has on the KSC students. She said, “I think one of the hardest things about being a student teacher is that we are at school all day, we have planning and grading and then have other work to do when we get home. Plus, we all have whatever other commitments you may have, for example I am the president to two honors societies, one club, secretary of another, member of a third honor society and the peer mentor for the honors program.”
Buckman continued, “We are very busy. This also means I am working less than I have throughout the rest of my college career during my the semester with my greatest living expenses to date and just before I have to make it on my own. There are also a number of expenses associated with student teaching and with certification upon completion of the program. Basically, what I am saying here is we don’t have time to do everything and there is no compensation for student teaching. We pay Keene State, as we should, and they pay our cooperating teachers, as they should, assuming our cooperating teachers are being quality mentors, and we have less time than ever to make money and don’t get paid for the work we are doing in our schools.”
Professor in the education department Betsy Dubois teaches KSC students while they are in methods. Dubois said being in the field is more valuable rather than only learning within the college classroom.
“[Being in the classroom], it’s really valuable because they have had all these courses prior to being in the field and its more abstract, but once they’re in the field, it’s more concrete. Methods I is literacy and social studies, methods II they expand to math and science and then student teaching is every subject,” Dubois said.
Seeing everything firsthand, how the cooperating teacher responds to situations, being a faculty member in training and working with other teachers, relating to parents and administration and behavior management are reasons why Dubois believes having students in the schools is important.
“The students love being out in the public schools. We try not to take it personally, but they would much rather be there than here [at KSC],” Dubois said.
Senior early childhood education major Shelby Klinck said methods and student teaching has been “quite the learning experience,” for her. “I’ve had a range of cooperating teachers that I have worked alongside over the past two years I’ve been in methods and student teaching. I’m in the early childhood education program, so that means for student teaching, I have two different seven-week placements. One placement is in the birth to five-year-old range and the other is with kindergarten to third grade range,” Klinck said.
She continued, “I’ve had the pleasure of being placed at the Child Development Center in the preschool alongside Stacey Fortin. She is phenomenal. She has taught me so much about being a preschool teacher. Before being placed in preschool, I thought I was for sure going to teach first grade after I graduated. Now, because of Stacey, I’m strongly considering teaching preschool instead. She has truly inspired me to explore other options.”
Klinck said she believes the hands-on opportunities in methods and student teaching is crucial for the education majors.
“The field experience has shown me what to expect when I teach in my own classroom. There are so many things that I had never considered before, for instance, how I would engage with families as a teacher. How would I work alongside another adult if I’m co-teaching, because many preschool teachers co-teach,” Klinck said.
Klinck knew she wanted to be a teacher from a young age because she did not have the best experience in school growing up. She said, “I grew up in a small town in Vermont that was simply not equipped to teach. It wasn’t until my family moved to a more popular area in Vermont that I learned to love school and became inspired to teach myself.”
Klinck has learned about herself personally through her experiences in the classroom.
Klinck said, “I’ve learned how to be a mindful person through teaching. I’ve also learned how to show compassion towards my students. Before, I wasn’t necessarily an emotional person. Now, I feel for every single one of my students. Realizing that their home lives are not always ideal and treating each child with respect is how I will be running my classroom. I can’t wait to graduate and teach in my own classroom.”
Emma Hamilton can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org