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Swimming

The old saying that you don’t know something unless you can teach it is an accurate proverb for just about anything in life. In fact, I can’t think of a single thing that would contradict this. Today, this adage taught me more than I had considered at the beginning of the day.


After yesterday’s faulty lesson, I considered today’s lesson plan at length and made sure that I was leading the way. I didn’t want to put my student teacher in that unprepared position again. At its core, the concept stuck with me that I was not only teaching my class but the teacher candidate as well. I realized that one of my critical tasks in being a host teacher is to guide my student teacher into teaching through modeling and feedback. In my experience, I have seen this piece of student teaching disappear completely as student teachers are expected to take on the role of a classroom teacher with as much experience in a short amount of time. However, I remember my own experiences student teaching at various locations. I also remember what I felt like was the most lacking part of teaching training: teaching. 

I know that sounds silly, but hear me out. In college, you learn a numerous theories and concepts that could easily fill one of those old Encyclopedia Britannica multi-volume sets. In addition to theories about pedagogy, we spend innumerable hours studying psychology and the content we are going to teach. For some teachers that content is expanded due to their role as elementary teachers who must necessarily know all of the subjects. In the domain of teaching languages, most of our time is spent learning linguistic topics like morphology, syntax, and phonology. It wasn’t until grad school when I spent serious time studying the pedagogies of learning languages through various modalities. 

In all that time, we spent not a single picosecond on the how part of teaching. When asked about this, professors would often make the excuse that it was far too time consuming to teach using a curriculum, let alone on different strategies for teaching certain subjects. The problem is that as a new teacher you are expected to dive right into the waters, ready or not, even if you can’t swim. In fact, that is a great analogy. Imagine being taught the fundamentals of swimming through theories of fluid dynamics, video lessons, and sports theories and then being thrown into a pool and told to swim laps. That’s what it’s like to be a new teacher. 

My goal for these few weeks I have a student teacher is to not push her off the proverbial diving board but to show her through modeling and co-planning how it is done. I understand that different districts have different curricula. Some don’t have any at all and teachers make up whatever they can from the interwebs. However, I’m going to do what I can for my student teacher so she doesn’t have the same or similar experiences as I did when I was learning to teach. 

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