Diary Of A Student Teacher, Episode 1: Myths Debunked
Classes |  Source: asu.edu (edited)

Diary Of A Student Teacher, Episode 1: Myths Debunked

Plan ALL the lessons!

Congratulations to you all. You survived finals week (mostly) unscathed, and you're most likely at home with family, free food, free laundry, and zero academic obligations until well into the New Year. You can sit back and relax until the spring semester, knowing that you're not avoiding any responsibilities like you normally do.

I, on the other hand, am giving myself until after Christmas to relax, and then it's back to the books. I'm a senior education major, which means as I enter my final semester of school, I have to prepare for my student teaching placement.

I'm taking over a freshman high school English class in the spring, which means I have to re-read and prepare to teach Of Mice And Men and Romeo and Juliet, as well as plan out units on argumentative writing and literature circles.

Student teachers don't get much of a break, especially if they're planning to teach in the spring semester, because that time is used for planning. I'm not complaining, however; I've been looking forward to this for months. As a way to kick off my journey into the teaching world, I thought I'd clear up a few common misconceptions regarding student teaching.

Myth #1: We get paid to student teach.
FALSE! This isn't like an engineering co-op; I will not get paid a dime. In fact, I'll have to pay to take two different standardized tests to qualify for student teaching, as well as pay a hefty fee for this lovely aptitude portfolio that will be scored and used to judge whether or not I can receive my teaching license.

Myth #2: Student teachers are just classroom aides.
No, not really. For the first month or so, I will be observing my supervising teacher and getting to know the class. After those first few weeks, though, I slowly get to take control of the class until I'm basically the real teacher. Then it's all on me to teach the entire class, for all five periods.

Myth #3: The students will be totally cooperative because you're their new teacher.
HA! NO. If you ever had a substitute teacher in high school, you'll know that they're basically the universal indicator to goof off for the entire period. That's essentially going to be me for the first few weeks until the students get used to me and I start to earn their respect. Until then... I'm that sub you took advantage of in second period American Lit. Thanks.

Myth #4: Student teaching is easy because you don't have to take any "real" classes.
AGAIN, false. I actually have a colloquium class outside student teaching, which will meet for three hours every Monday night. All the student teachers must take this in concurrence with their student teaching.

I also have ton of outside planning, grading, and reading to do to in order to keep my class running smoothly. Remember that aptitude portfolio I talked about earlier? That involves me submitting a ton of work, lesson plans, and even videos of myself teaching lessons... so... yeah. Not necessarily a walk in the park.

Myth #5: The school will supply me with all the materials I need to teach and be successful.
Not necessarily true. I'm lucky, because my placement has access to a full library, carts of iPads, a big classroom, projectors, and the like. Not all placements are like this. Some won't have access to computers. Some students won't have books, paper, even pencils. So, while I might be fortunate to have access to technology, not all student teachers will.

Myth #6: I'll get a job right away after I finish student teaching.
No. Student teaching does NOT guarantee you a job at the school where you student teach. This experience is pretty much just a warmup that allows you to apply for and obtain a teaching license. I'll certainly be able to use the administrators at my student teaching school as references when I'm looking for a job. After I'm done student teaching, the real job search begins.

There you have it. Stay tuned for future episodes of my student teacher diary coming in the spring!

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One 15 Minute Trick to Bump Up Your GPA

Minimum effort, maximum payoff.

There are lots of ways to maximize your grades, and luckily for you, they don't all involve a lot of work! Minimum effort, maximum payoff--a philosophy worth living by. So let's talk about the incredible utility of attending office hours.

Especially if you attend a large university, it can be really easy to get away with being totally anonymous. Sit in the back row, don't participate in class, write the paper, take the test, and walk away. You can succeed this way, but you may be making your life harder than it needs to be. It's possible to make sure your TA and professor know who you are without a ton of time and stress. Way numero uno: Go to office hours.
But why do I want the teaching assistant or professor to know who I am? Aren't office hours for suck-ups and brown-nosers? Or complete idiots who, for some reason, need hours of extra help to understand basic concepts? Isn't making the trek to faculty offices just a real hassle for no good reason? No. There are loads of good reasons to know your teachers, and one of the most important ones is that you'll most likely get a better grade.
If the person grading your work sees your name, knows who you are and doesn't hate you, you'll generally get a higher grade. It's that easy. When I read a student's paper, if I don't know who the student is and their work sucks, who really cares? You clearly have no grasp of the material on top of not putting in an ounce of effort... so here ya go, have a D!
But if I know who this person is because they come to my office hours and show some enthusiasm, well...C+? B-? It's much easier for us to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have a handle on course material if we actually remember having conversations with you in our office hours. For you overachievers rocking pretty solid GPAs, your TA simply knowing who you are can bump you from a B+ to an A- or an A- to an A.
That's right. Your GPA can literally be .3 higher simply by taking about four to six hours per semester, per class, and showing up at office hours. But be warned: this isn't always going to work. Unfortunately for you, some TAs or professors don't care about anything other than the quality of your work (ridiculous, right?), but very frequently, you'll find you'll earn a better grade simply by knowing the teacher.
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I'm An Education Major and I Love It

It'll all be worthwhile.

"You're an education major? You better marry a rich man!"

If you'd like to see smoke come out of my ears, tell me I'll have to marry rich because I'll be broke with a teacher's salary. I wouldn't have to marry rich if I was paid for every time I've heard the above quote or something close to it. And even if I had that steady stream of cash coming in, I'd still choose education. Why? Here's the shocking truth: because I love it.

I'm a third-year student studying to teach high school English. I have stood tall and stone-faced despite of all the chuckles, apologies laced with biting pity, and the occasional sarcastic, "good luck, honey" that I get when I tell people my major. People don't seem to understand that there is more to teaching than the salary.

Teaching is incredibly difficult but incredibly rewarding. I spend hours upon hours planning lessons for the 10th grade English class I'm currently team-teaching, only to have some rejected or not work out. But having a student come up to me at the end of the class and ask me, "Can we do that lesson again tomorrow?" with a huge smile on his face is one of the most incredible feelings. Score one for the teacher, haters.

Teaching is STRESSFUL. Demanding. Scary. Anxiety-inducing (literally). I have the very legitimate concern that I'll start going gray by the time I'm 30.

Schedules change constantly. Lessons have to be re-organized, or completely re-done, and some are outright rejected, or crash and burn when implemented. No matter how much I try to get my students engaged, there are always students who don't want to learn. There are days when I bury my head in the sea of ungraded essays and rubrics that have taken over my desk and think to myself, "What...on EARTH...am I doing?"

I have a student right now who had been struggling with our writing unit. I'm talking cringe-worthy comma splices and blatant disregard for MLA format. Shudder...I don't want to talk about it.

Anyway, she told me the other day that she had no idea how easy persuasive writing was until I sat with her and taught her how to do it. I turned this student into a writer.

Things like this make me lift my disheveled head from the aforementioned sea of papers with the fleeting hope that I'm not insane for doing this. This is more than gratifying. This is why I teach.

For anyone who still doesn't understand, who still wants me to marry a doctor or an engineer, who still says I'm doomed after college, who still thinks I'll be condemned to a Ramen-noodle-only budget, I've news for you, friends. I don't teach for the income. I teach for the outcome.

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What I Learned as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant

You're better than you think you are.

It may just be me, but your undergrad years feel a lot like what learning to walk must feel like. Wobbly and unbalanced, and when you fall over you cry a lot until someone waves something shiny in your face.

So to have any kind of academic responsibility outside of the go-to-class-do-homework model is weird. Teachers believing in me? Thinking that I have what it takes to be an example to freshmen? Nonsense and poppycock is what I say! I can't tell left from right without using my hands!

And yet I'm finishing up my year as an undergraduate teaching assistant.

It was fun, and taught me a lot about how we as students perceive ourselves, as opposed to how a professor sees us. Because in their infinite wisdom, they see us as people full of potential and intelligence, something we can't see ourselves because we have an assignment due, or we got a 78 on that test.

The point is, we're too close to be objective about ourselves.

But then, out of the blue, a teacher's like, "Hey! You're pretty smart and cool. Wanna work with me?" and you're fucking bowled over by the fact that someone other than your mom thinks you're good enough.

Out of everything I've done over the past year, that concept of me being a lot better than I think I am is what developed the most. I am, and we all are, much better students and adults and members of society than what we're able to see when we haven't slept and are wearing the same shirt for the third day in a row.

We're under a lot of pressure, both in the academic sense, and in the sense that we're almost done with academia entirely. So when we don't see ourselves as perfect, polished Grown UpsTM like our teachers, we default our thinking to, "Well, I guess I'm just a hot fuckin' mess then."

I'm not. You're not. We're not. So for those of you who don't have someone to tell you what my professor told me, that you're smart and capable and a perfect fit for what you want to do, this is me telling you. Just gotta get that outside perspective.

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To The Professor Who Believed In Me

Thank you.

When you attend a big college, it can be easy to get lost in those 400-person lecture halls run by one tired professor and maybe a TA or two. To this professor, you don't have an identity. In fact, you probably aren't anything more than a seven-digit ID number, if even that.

It doesn't matter if you're one of the students who comes to class every day and does well on the four exams that make up all of your grade. You could be the ghost student who only shows up to the final. You could be the student enjoying a Netflix marathon during the lecture. He might recognize you as the student with the Macbook sitting in the front, sporting her team's athletic gear, but he'll never know you.

Then there are professors who break down barriers. They remember your name and your major. They remember that you're an athlete, so they ask you how practices are going. They remember that you like Harry Potter, and they'll enthusiastically discuss it with you. I was lucky to have professors like this, but one in particular showed me that he cared about me, not just from an academic standpoint.

His class was an editing class, one from the communications department that fulfilled a requirement for my education degree's emphasis on language arts. I had never taken a journalism class before.

For the first few weeks, I was lost in the pages of my AP Stylebook, searching frantically to find whether the number "seven" should be written as a word or as a figure. Do I capitalize this title? Is the word "fireman" stylistically acceptable? Is "October" abbreviated? HELP!?

Not only did this professor see that I was struggling, he talked to me individually and allowed me to take home these AP Style assignments. He answered every single one of my panicked questions with a smile, and after a few months, turned me into a passable editor.

One day, he came up to me while we were writing headlines and told me about an editing position on the university's newspaper. He strongly encouraged me to apply, but I told him that my athletics commitment would interfere with the position's hours. I could see that he was visibly disappointed, but I didn't want to take the position from someone who could commit to it fully.

The following semester, I took another of his classes, a newswriting class. We had been practicing writing full stories, and upon returning an assignment, he asked me with a huge smile if I wanted to switch majors and become a journalist.

I had rarely come across a professor who not only commended my work, but also told me that it meant something, and was worth pursuing. I'd had professors tell me that I was a good writer, but he did more.

He saw promise in me, taught me, guided me, and showed me that he wanted me to succeed and pursue something. He believed in me. He is the reason I began to consider writing as more than just a hobby or requirement for school.

To the professors who do more than just lecture, assess, and repeat, you leave more of an impact than you know. Thank you. You make me proud to know that someday I'll stand at the front of my own classroom.

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How to Take a Class as a Transient Student

Get educated in the smartest way.

A transient student is a student who is taking only one or two classes at another university. For example, you might want to be a transient student at a local community college over the summer to get some gen-ed's out of the way. Or, you might be able to save some money by taking a few transient classes at a cheaper university in your free time.

The mechanics of transient study can be a little complicated, so here's what you need to keep in mind to make sure your credit transfers!

Check your school's transient student guidelines.

Each college has their own policy about transient study. For my school, you're allowed to take transient classes at any outside college until you reach Junior status. Once that's reached, you can only take transient classes at four year universities, not at community colleges. Also, my last thirty credits need to completed at my college.

This is a pretty standard rule for most colleges, but it's important to check the guidelines so you don't run into any issues. Your advisor or registrar should be able to give you specific information about your school's policy.

Find your courses.

It's all fine and dandy if you decide to take a few classes at another college, but actually finding these classes is harder than you might think. Upper level courses can be harder to find, especially for specific major requirements. First, search nearby universities to see their course openings. If nothing works, check for online classes at other universities.

I'm taking a summer course online through a university all the way in Utah! This ended up being the best fit for the specific upper level class, and it was much more affordable than my private college. Check the guidelines for transient study at your prospective college to make sure you're eligible.

Get approval.

Once you've found your course, it's time to get it approved. My college requires both my advisor and the department head to approve the course before I can get credit for it. Your school registrar can give you specific instructions to get started.

Take your class!

There are a lot of benefits of transient study! You save money by taking classes at a less expensive university and you get a challenging class out the way! Rock your class and forward your completed transcript to your home school and watch your credits rise!