Back to school at a different desk

Back to school at a different desk

By Elizabeth Franks-North

Steph Swartzendruber teaches an English lesson at Goshen Middle School in Ann Carboneau's 8th grade classroom. Photo by: Isaac Fast

Across six school districts and with 28 student teachers, Goshen College’s elementary and secondary education majors have been teaching since August 2.

“What’s so exciting is that our student teachers are starting from day one,” said Karen Kreider Yoder, an associate education professor. “They’re out there doing it.”

Kevin Gary, an associate education professor and director of secondary education, said, “Teaching is a craft that uses the old apprentice model. That’s what is exciting, daunting, and important about student teaching.”

The student teachers began their semester, in true teacher fashion, by attending meetings.  By the second week of school with students, they were teaching one class. By week four, they were full time teachers.

“This is the capstone experience towards being a teacher,” Gary said. “The student teachers are mentored into the profession by a master teacher.”

Student teaching allows for what can’t be gleaned from a textbook to be learned from experience.

“To see a technique applied and the practical wisdom of a teacher in action cannot be communicated through textbooks or exams,” Gary explained,

As important as experience is, Steph Swartzendruber, an eighth grade student teacher at Goshen Middle School, said that many of her classes prepared her well for this challenge. She said learning backward design for lesson plans has been extremely helpful.

Lewis Caskey, a student teacher in grades ten through twelve at Goshen High School, said, “I draw on it [class instruction] absolutely every day.”

However, both agreed there are some aspects of teaching that cannot be taught.

“There is no way you can teach confidence or how to think on your feet,” Caskey said, “I have a pretty good grip on the science, but the art is hard.”

Swartzendruber and Caskey both have days that begin by 7:20 a.m. and end at 10:00 or 10:30 p.m., hopefully.  Between planning, grading, building up their portfolios, and being full-time teachers, there isn’t room for much else.

“It’s a lot of work.  I just go day by day,” Swartzendruber said, “I love getting to work with a great cooperating teacher and I really like eighth grade.”

Caskey said, “Feeling like I’m in the right place and being really rewarded by the students is great.”

The student teachers will spend five to six weeks as full time teachers.  Then they will end the semester in the senior seminar and tighten up their portfolios.  The senior seminar has several purposes.

Gary, in regards to the senior seminar, said, “They [the student teachers] will explore teaching as a vocation and prepare to enter the professional world.”

Caskey added, “Senior Seminar is like an intensive May Term that helps us plan for our career.”

Caskey also talked about how he enjoys having his own students and interacting with them.

“That’s me. I’m Mr. Caskey. That’s weird,” Caskey said, on what it’s like talking to students about their grades or class.

Goshen College’s student teaching program is different from programs at other colleges and universities.  Goshen only offers student teaching in the fall, the seminar is done after student teaching, not during, and there is plenty of diversity nearby to choose from for teaching placement.

All the aspects of Goshen’s program are meant to enhance the student teachers’ learning and experience.

“Teaching is such a vast and multifaceted skill, it takes time and thought and reflection,” Yoder said.

Student teaching is only offered in the fall so that the student teachers can be an active part of creating the culture in the classroom.

“Classrooms are little pockets of culture.  The teacher is the driver, creator, and sustainer of it,” said Gary, “the student teachers get to see how to create culture.”

After student teaching, Gary is most excited for how the student teachers will have changed and “the level of understanding and depth of insight that just isn’t there before.”

Following student teaching this fall, Swartzendruber will take two courses in the spring and do training for her TESOL degree.  Caskey hopes to receive his diploma in December and substitute teach for Goshen High School.

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