FROM READERS: Reflections on becoming a teacher

Wednesday, December 26, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:06 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dan Weil just completed his student teaching experience through Columbia College, where he was studying to be a special education teacher. This post originally published on his blog.

On December 4, 2012, the Columbia College Education Department in held its Nearing Teacher Certification ceremony for its current group of student teachers. I was one of approximately 20 students who have now become fully certified teachers. The experience for me has been surreal. I figured, with my luck something would no doubt go wrong. But it didn't.

Student Teaching

Before I tell you about the ceremony, I have to tell you about my experiences student teaching. Beginning in the third week in August, I started student teaching at the Southern Boone Middle School in Ashland, Missouri. I worked with Ann VanWig, my coordinating teacher, who is a 7th grade learning specialist.

During my 8 weeks there, Ann showed me the ropes of special education. How to write an IEP (Individual Education Plan), how to keep communication open with parents of students, and how to communicate with students who struggle with learning deficits.

Ann co-teaches three classes in the mornings. She is constantly on the move and sometimes hard to keep up with. Sometimes she stops to visit with teachers en route to a class. Regardless, her students know they can count on her. She is fair and always there for them.

Misty LaRoe, my coordinating teacher for the second 8 weeks on my student teaching experience, works at the Hallsville R-IV Intermediate School in Hallsville, Missouri. Hallsville is just northeast of Columbia, and about a 20 minute drive from my home (I could make it to Ashland in about 8-10 minutes). Misty is the learning specialist for the 3rd and 5th grades. She mostly works in CWC (Class-within-a class) settings and is always on the move. As a matter of fact, I think she does more walking in a day than Ann does.

Misty teaches a Wilson's reading program to 3rd graders every morning, and the kids are always glad to see her. She has a big heart for those kids, and they love her right back. It's wonderful to watch. She also co-teaches math and communication arts classes at the same grade level. The 5th graders care for her just the same, and are always glad to see her in their math and reading classes.

Both of my coordinating teachers gave me the opportunity to create lesson plans and teach classes. Teaching to the middle school students was great because I felt like I could profess to them in a more in depth way. My lessons could be more involved, and I liked that. The lesson that I prized the most was one I taught and broadcast live utilizing a Google+ Hangout On-Air (HOA). Video of that lesson is embedded below.

This experiment was something I had wanted to try for about as long as Google+ has made Hangouts possible to the public. The experiment was a huge success, and has generated more ideas in my mind for what I want to do with HOA in future lessons.

Going back to teaching in elementary school was odd — mostly because I forgot what being in a primary school on a daily basis is like. I found the kids to have short attention spans, which meant I had to adjust my lesson plans and teaching style accordingly. A challenge it was, but the kids in both grade levels were receptive to my lessons and like my fun approach to learning.

I like to teach with life lessons — those that come from outside of school. Students need to know and understand how they will use their learning in their world outside of school. The elementary school kids love those stories, and I felt rewarded by their smiling faces after each lesson I taught.

The Ceremony

I thought about all of these experiences during the Nearing Certification Ceremony. I thought about what my coordinating teachers and their students had given me. Support - Respect - A Challenge - and Feedback. They were all there for me, and I am so grateful.

During the ceremony, I was given time to talk about my coordinating teachers. It was a true pleasure to do so, because they are both amazing teachers. The ceremony concluded with Linda Bradley, our head student teaching supervisor, handing us certificates of completion and our teaching portfolio grades. I managed to get one of the top scores in my class, which was and still is very overwhelming for me. I stood up by the podium with my new colleagues, all who are going to be very talented teachers. It was an honor to stand there with them.

My job hunt has begun, and I hope to find something beginning in the fall of 2013. I will also begin taking the first of my final three master's class at Columbia College in January. I am very grateful for all the support I have received from my family. They have supported me since I first began this new career path in the fall of 2005. Five of those years were spent at Columbia College and attending night classes. It hasn't been easy juggling student life with being a husband and a father to a now 13-year-old. I have felt their love and support, as well as from you, my online friends. Thank you for everything you have given me. I am grateful.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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