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Student teachers: You see them in your dorms. You rarely see them on campus, and if you do, they’re brandishing sensible shoes, modest necklines, and their ID that states their name and school district on a colorful lanyard. You may think to yourself, “Wow! She/He’s so lucky! They don’t have to take any actual classes this semester!” While this is true, get the picture of us cutting out gingerbread men in the library out of your head. We are some of the hardest working people on this campus. We are drained. We would not trade it for the world.

The student teachers you see on campus essentially have one foot into adulthood and the workforce, and one foot still in college. Everything we do this semester determines the rest of our lives. I would love to go to Falbo’s on Wednesdays or stay up late, put on a face mask, and spill the tea with my friends. However, I am waking up at 5:00 AM and need to lesson plan for the next week before I even consider a social life. Showing up groggy to an 8:30 only has a negative effect on yourself. Showing up sleepy to student teaching not only reflects poorly on myself, but it also affects the students. If I’m not on my A game at ALL TIMES, our students are not receiving the education that they deserve. My students deserve 100% of my effort 100% of the time that I am there. To give them any less would be selfish. So, when you ask me to hang out and I say no, please don’t judge me or think that I don’t want to be friends anymore. I have my future and the futures of around a hundred students in my hands that I will never even consider throwing away for a fun time. If you’re friends with a student teacher or two, try asking us to grab dinner at the caf (before 6 ideally because personally my bedtime routine starts around 8) or maybe see if we’re free on the weekend. Ask us how our days went. We love talking about teaching; however, you may not be able to get us to shut up about it. Don’t cut us off from friendships because we aren’t able to be typical college students anymore. We may need support or even just a listening ear more than ever.

We are drained. We’re drained physically, mentally, emotionally, and I promise in every other way possible as well. No matter what certification area we are (elementary, middle level, or secondary), our kids are SO SNIFFLY. There are germs. So. Many. Germs. We watch dozens of students sneeze into their hands without hesitation every single day. Our immune systems are running on maximum overdrive, and no amount of hand sanitizer or Airborne can help us. We leave our schools covered in a sweater of germs, ink, and maybe a few post-it notes. Many of us live together. I bring germs home from Ligonier, my roommate from Hempfield, and my suitemate from Latrobe. Our suite is a cesspool of germs while we wait for our immune systems to adapt. Please do not judge the tissues we have shoved up our sleeves. We know we’re gross, but we care about our students, so we don’t really care.

We are mentally drained by the end of the day and possibly mentally DECEASED by the end of the week. Teaching isn’t this easy career of glorified babysitting that so many people picture it to be. I write lesson plans for hours in hopes that my students will be positively affected by it. I find standard after standard to align with what the plan is to make sure that I give them the knowledge they need to pass their state testing without “teaching to the test” and still making teaching enjoyable. That is only the beginning of the process. Once in the classroom, I have to be prepared for absolutely anything. Students may not respond well to the lesson I have planned and become off task, and I’ll have to find a way to redirect their attention to the content at hand. A change of schedule may happen, and I’ll need to change the last ten minutes of my lesson in a way that will still benefit my students in the now reduced amount of time. I read somewhere that teachers make around the same amount of split-second decisions as brain surgeons. That claim seemed RIDICULOUS until I started student teaching. My brain has never worked harder than it has in the few weeks that I’ve been teaching. Don’t question our zombie-like state on campus. It’s probably the first time our brain has had time to stop since 7:00 AM.

 

I never expected teaching to be such an emotional experience. I did not expect to care about such a large group of kids so much. My cooperating teacher told me something at the beginning of my student teaching experience that has stuck with me. “No student is unlikable.” Each one of my students is special. That sounds generic, I know. I have kids that I cannot keep on task or that roll their eyes when asked to do something, but even they have their own home in my heart. These students make my life so wonderful and fill it with joy. Students often have problems at home that they bring in to school; that is inevitable. It is my job and will always be my job to make sure that school is not only a place where they are educated but also place where they can be happy and comfortable as well as develop into better overall people because there is a chance that they will return home to an environment where that is not possible. I will never treat a student like they are not worthy respect or happiness. There are days that I cry because the amount of care I have for my students overwhelms me. There are other days that I cry with frustration over not being able to keep students on task and self-doubt. Student teachers have the weight of the world on their shoulders some days. Most of us will never receive the respect that our profession deserves. Many of us will have trouble finding a job in the area after graduation. And I speak for all of us when I say that we don’t regret a single thing and would pick education over and over again.

HCXO,

Miss Johnston

Gina Johnston

St Vincent '19

"Freedom lies in being bold" - Robert Frost Rugger, vegetarian, future educator
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