To become a licensed teacher, students must complete a certain amount of hours of student teaching in a classroom observing, learning, and teaching. Currently, there are two student teachers at Potosi High School. Brianna Moore is a student-teacher for Mr. Fry this quarter, after she student taught last quarter at Platteville Middle School. Amber Patterson is the student-teacher for Mrs. Brunton this semester in the Ag Department.
Both student teachers are taking on the role of teacher this quarter in the classroom. “My role is to be the teacher. I am currently the lead teacher for the Introduction to Agriculture class and will be picking up more classes in the near future,” commented Ms. Patterson. Ms. Moore is fully teaching English 9, leading class discussions in English 10, and helping out in Journalism and Creative Writing. Mr. Fry also teaches AP English. “I can’t teach AP English,” Ms. Moore told me when I interviewed her. “You need a license to teach AP classes so I have been doing a lot of observing in that class.” For Ms. Moore and Ms. Patterson, this is their first time being the teacher in a classroom. This comes along with many responsibilities like planning, grading, and helping students who might need it outside of class .
For them to be successful, they need to form relationships with their students, which is difficult sometimes. “I do admit middle school is a totally different dynamic than high school,” Ms. Moore commented. “Middle schoolers are more curious and ask a lot more questions. They were more excited to interact [with me] than high school students.” Although Ms. Moore found it challenging at first, she believes that she has been able to build relationships with her high school students. Ms. Patterson also agrees that she has been able to form a relationship with her students and that they are leaving a positive impact on her.
Since March of 2020, the whole world has turned upside down, and teaching has been directly affected by Covid-19. For seasoned teachers, these adjustments like virtual students and social distancing have been difficult to manage, so it has been a challenge for Ms. Moore and Ms. Patterson as well. “The biggest challenge I faced is classroom management, as with Covid, it was my responsibility to make sure students were as distanced as possible as well as masked. Toward the end of the day, students are ready to be done and I have to help them stay on task.” That was the comment Ms. Patterson made when asked what her greatest challenge is. Ms. Moore expressed the same challenges as Ms. Patterson but she also noted something else: “It is better to learn right now because things are changing and I am learning it for the first time instead of season teachers who are changing what they’ve learned before.”
One of the main focuses of student teaching is to figure out what style of teaching they like and dislike so they can implement them into their classes when they graduate and take a full-time job. “So far,” Ms. Moore commented, “I’ve loved learning along with the students. When I was in high school, free time was a blessing, so I was surprised to see how much free time they get.” Ms. Moore notes that she has been able to see the benefits and drawbacks of having free time, and trying to find the fine balance of enough free time and not enough is difficult. Ms. Moore has also been able to bring in some different ideas into the classroom like having the freshman act out a scene of Romeo and Juliet instead of writing a paper for their final project of the unit. For Ms. Patterson, her fun personality fits right in with Mrs. Brunton’s and their teaching styles are very similar.
On the flip side, teachers have a very important role in the student teaching process. Mr. Eastlick, Mrs. Brunton, and Mr. Fry have all had or currently have student teachers. “Usually the University [of Wisconsin Platteville] will send an email to Mr. Uppena with a list of current students who will be looking for placements for student teaching. Because we are so close to Platteville, we get asked often,” commented Mrs. Brunton. Mr. Fry added that a similar situation happened to him and he found out he was having a student-teacher when she emailed him in June.
According to Mr. Eastlick, there was some prep he needed to go through first before he could host a student-teacher. “I was required to watch some videos from a recorded class and have a meeting with the student teacher's supervisor. Other than that, I needed to have been a teacher for at least 3 years.” Once the teachers went through the training necessary to host a student teacher, they came up with their expectations for their student teachers. “I see this as an opportunity for the student teacher to learn, experiment, and get a real, authentic classroom experience, but I have no expectation that the student teacher will completely take over all my classes and I will sit back and do nothing for a quarter,” Mr. Fry commented. Mrs. Brunton added, “They should be able to give students feedback, both positive and constructive on their work and should be able to do so in a timely and professional manner.”
All three teachers agreed that it was nice to have another teacher in the room to answer student questions, bounce ideas off of, and more. Mr. Eastlick did admit that it took time for his students to adjust to learning from the student-teacher and for him to step back and let someone else be in charge. Mrs. Brunton has rated her experience of having student teachers as a ten out of ten since it makes her job much easier. Mr. Fry has also agreed that this experience has been positive. “I have been more reflective about myself and my teaching, and I get to have the planning and strategizing conversations that I don’t otherwise get to have very often. She has contributed some great ideas and I have really enjoyed the experience.”
Just like the student teachers, the teachers have also had challenges in having student teachers. Mr. Eastlick’s and Mr. Fry’s greatest challenge was giving up doing things their way and stepping back from leading. Mrs. Brunton expressed the challenge of making sure her student teacher knows what is expected of her. “When a student-teacher comes, they don't know what I teach, how I teach, or what my expectations are for my students. Making sure that I convey those things to my student teachers is important, not only for their success but also for my responsibility as their cooperating teacher.”
Like anything in the teaching field, being a student-teacher, and being the teacher hosting the student, takes cooperation. Regardless of the crazy year, Ms. Patterson and Ms. Moore are navigating student teaching and learning how they want to manage their classes, learn from others, and become the best possible teachers they can when they graduate.