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Once you have made it through four years of college education to get to the career of your dreams, you are then placed in a classroom where you learn about the things to do and not do when you become a full-certified teacher. As someone who has always dreamed of being an elementary school teacher, this year is one that I have been looking forward to since I first started college. Now that I am here, I can say that there are some things that I never thought I would experience, from dealing with graduate courses to dealing with emotional needs of my students. I have officially made it through half of the year and there is plenty to share with fellow student teachers about struggles you may face once you make it this far.
1. Graduate Courses on Top of Being a Student Teacher
In my program, all student interns are required to take 12 credits of graduate courses, all while being at the elementary school four of the five days, and the other day you are in class all day. This is something that I thought, before taking them, that they would be beneficial and I would enjoy the day away from the school. I was wrong. First, you do not get paid for being at the school and you have to pay to take these courses, and in order to receive certification, you have to take these courses. Now, this is a downside, but toward the middle of the semester, I would miss going to my classroom on the day of classes and I felt like I would miss out on so many things with my students. I do admit that the classes have helped me become a better teacher for my students by pushing me to think about my students learning as the goal of my lessons.
2. Students Not Taking Me Seriously as a Teacher
This is a tricky situation because how you and your mentor teacher introduce you to the class at the beginning of the year can set the tone of the classroom for the whole year. My mentor introduced me as another teacher who is learning from the students and I was explaining to the students that I am a teacher and am working on becoming a better teacher. Some students understood, and others looked at me as I was a student just like them. When I started to take lead in the classroom, some students would not give me respect in front of the classroom, and this made me feel as if I was not good enough to handle this job. It took a reboot of the classroom expectations, which was thought of by my mentor teacher. I researched the idea of whole-brain teaching where the students work to remember rules for the classroom and are given points for following these rules. This helped so much with my authority in the classroom. The students have now been giving me the same respect as my mentor teaching, but it took time and having to reassert what the expectations were for the students when I am teaching them.
3. Not Being Paid for the Year
As a student teacher, you are not paid, and my program takes a year in order to receive your teaching certification. The downside to this is: you are not paid at all during this year. I graduated and had student loans, much like the rest of the college graduates. I had planned to save up during the summer before by working a few jobs where I did not have to worry about bills during this stressful year. I did that, but other expenses come up and then, before you know it, your bank account is falling before your eyes. I have found some ways to make some extra cash throughout the year. I have taken a few clients for babysitting at nights to help earn some extra cash and what is nice is that I can still get my work done when the kids go to sleep. I am allowed to substitute teach for my mentor teacher for 15 days out of the year for pay, which helps. Finally, I have become a tutor at the school three days a week, where I am paid, which is nice because that is income I get every two weeks. This year has made me realize how important it is to budget your finances so that when something happens you are prepared, but also you can be relieved of extra stress that you do not need this year.