Stepping into a new classroom can be scary – especially when it’s you at the front of the classroom.
“The hardest part about student teaching was earning the students’ respect,” said Kenan Gabriel, senior art education major who student-taught at Dike Elementary in Cleveland. “Their immediate reaction as ‘Who is that guy?'”
Gabriel and his peers in the Student Teaching and Practicum class go back to elementary, middle and high schools across the country today for six weeks to complete their student teaching requirements to graduate with a Bachelor’s in art education.
Student Teaching and Practicum sends students out into specific schools to supplement the art program in those schools for six weeks. Then they come back for a two-week review period. Today they start the last six-week period of the course.
Student teaching is designed to stimulate hands-on learning.
“Getting the students out into classrooms creates a whole new experience for them,” said Robin Vande Zande, assistant professor in the School of Art.
Christine Campbell, a senior art education major who taught at Jackson Middle School in Massilon, couldn’t agree more.
“Someone can teach and teach you about teaching, but you don’t really know until you get out there,” she said. “At the schools, we got involved in every aspect of teaching – parent/teacher conferences, aspects of the budgeting, student complaints, special needs.”
Other challenges are posed beside earning respect. The student teachers must find a way to work around different curricula of the schools they visit.
“We write 20-page long lesson plans in our classes, but there is limited time in the schools we go to,” said Gay Barnett, a post-undergraduate who taught at Greentown Elementary in Canton. “Sometimes you are dealing with short attention spans, and you have to try to get the most important information out in the first fifteen minutes.”
But with the bad always comes the good, and most student teachers have said they found it to be a rewarding experience for several reasons.
For Gabriel, it was being treated like a colleague.
“This was the first time that I felt like the teacher. I felt like a professional rather than a student,” he said.
Part of being a professional teacher is getting along with the students. Gabriel, who taught kindergarten through seventh grade, was in a unique circumstance.
“Discipline was hard. I dealt with kids from the rough part of town who were dealing with a lot at home, and we got the brunt of it at school,” he said. “We butted heads a lot, but I learned that you have to be consistent.”
Positive reinforcement is the name of the game for the student teachers.
Campbell taught 8th grade, and found that one of her students had never had anyone set high standards for her.
“I didn’t know that this was the case, so I did not treat her any different from the rest of the students,” Campbell said. “I just talked honestly to her and encouraged her more than anyone had before.”
That belief in her student led to the revealing of some amazing talent.
“Her final project blew me away,” Campbell said.
As the student teachers enter different schools, a unique understanding of art can be found along with a better appreciation for teaching, Barnett said.
While teaching the fifth grade class at Greentown Elementary, she was asked a question that she never expected from a mind so young.
“I had a student ask me if all art was meaningful,” she said. “It was shocking. They are thinking on levels above what we think they do.”
The student teachers said they plan to take what they learned in their previous student teaching experiences at the new schools.
Campbell said she looks forward to the new classroom and is already thinking about what to do for lesson plans.
But the hardest part has yet to come.
“It was so hard to leave,” Campbell said. “Some of the kids were so sad to see me go. I was sad to leave. Every one of them taught me something.”
Contact College of Architecture and Environmental Design and School of Art reporter Jackie Mantey at [email protected]