Teaching Pre-Service Teachers: a letter to my students

This past semester I taught an Elementary Language Arts Methods class to seniors in Michigan State University’s #1 ranked Teacher Preparation Program. The young women in my class pushed me to think new ways about myself and what it means to be a teacher educator. Teaching them was daunting at times – mostly because I felt a great weight and responsibility of preparing them to enter the teaching profession. Also because I know that no matter what a program is ranked, how many classes you take, or how much time you have spent with children – part of becoming a teacher is about realizing how complicated this profession really is. That can be scary. Scary to learn and scary to try and teach. As I am putting away my things from the semester, I’ve been thinking about my students and wanted to say a few more things to them. 

Dear TE402, Section 8, Spring 2012 –

Throughout the semester, I attempted to convey to you all the dance that is both conveying the importance of foundational knowledge while also modeling that a teacher doesn’t always know everything. I tried to be honest while not completely terrifying you. When a teacher realizes that they need to ask for help, look up information, or learn alongside their students. Many of us had schooling experiences with teachers who acted like the knew everything, this sometimes leads those who want to be teachers into believing that act is part of being a teacher.

Don’t get me wrong; you need to know your stuff. You need to be able to explain phonological awareness to parents, to understand the difference between homophones and homonyms so that you can explain them to your students. But you also need to be able to say, “I don’t know what platypus only live in Australia, let’s find out together.” You knew when your teachers were faking it, your own students will too.

There will be days when you don’t feel prepared to be a teacher, when you think if you had only had one more class, you could figure out this problem. But you can do it. You have the ability to problem-solve using knowledge and research, asking colleagues and accessing professional learning communities. You have the disposition of a professional educator. Believe in that disposition.

Teaching is amazing.
It is exhausting and exhilarating.
It is frustrating and fueling.
It is what forces me out of bed in the morning,
and causes me to collapse in bed in the evening.

It is hard, hard, hard work.
It is intellectual and emotional.
It is challenging in more ways
than even the best teacher ed program in the country can prepare you for.

It is political, even when you don’t want it to be.

Your identity will be questioned and pushed and stretched.
Then it will be reaffirmed by your students.

Thank you all for reaffirming why I chose to teach in a college of education. I look forward to hearing from you as you continue your journey as a fellow professional educators.

– Kristin


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