For those who are new to my blog, I was a classroom teacher for five years. I taught 5th grade (all subjects), 7th grade English Language Arts, and then was a Reading Specialist for 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th. 7th graders are my favorite age! I resigned in 2017 to finish my dissertation, so I haven’t been in the middle school classroom for over a year and half. I’ve been teaching college courses since 2015, so I just continued doing that while I finished my PhD. I just graduated in December of 2018 – which still hasn’t sunk in!
Okay, here are the questions. : )
Questions about my classroom experience:
What is the biggest take-away you have from teaching in a classroom?
-I have two: relationships are key to success and every learner is different. I don’t think you can run a successful classroom, at any level, without relationships. Once you know students as individual learners, you are better able to teach them.
Is running a classroom on your own hard?
-It depends on the day, HA! I think every single teacher, newbies and veterans, have good and bad days. No two days will be the same. As far as management goes, as long as you have a variety of tools to use, you will be just fine. Again, I believe this goes back to building strong relationships with your students. Those relationships lead to mutual respect, which goes a long way in the classroom, especially among older students.
What is the most difficult part of teaching? Most easy?
-Difficult: watching a student give up.
-Easy: watching a student succeed and getting to know your students. It’s not always easy to break through walls and build relationships, but once you do, I promise it’s worth it!
How to make reading and writing enjoyable for kids?
-First, get to know your kiddos. Second, find out what they ENJOY. Use that enjoyment to teach them.
How was teaching middle school?
-It was awesome. Most days. Some days weren’t so awesome. Middle schoolers like to see what they can get away with. They can be mean. But, again, get to know your kids and it will pay off. I knew my kids so well that I could read them as soon as they stepped into my classroom. If one of them needed a second to chill, I gave it to them. If one needed a hug, I gave it to them. If I needed to ignore behavior instead of engaging and starting an argument with them, I did. Sometimes they need a second to chill, then you can talk to them. Every day was different. Every kid was different. I definitely miss it!
How do you suggest I go about dealing with tough/impossible parents?
-Unfortunately, this is something we all will/have encounter/ed. My best advice – communicate with them. Be open, honest, and sincere. I always tried to start the school year with AT LEAST one positive phone call home. This helped build a relationship with parents/guardians. Are we going to be able to make everyone happy? No. But we can try to start the school year in a positive light! (Sometimes a positive phone call can literally be that a student wrote their name on their paper two days in a row…just find something GOOD.)
Why do you enjoy teaching reading more than other subjects?/Why did you pick English/reading?
-I have always enjoyed reading/writing more than other subjects. That’s pretty much the only reason! I love literacy and wanted to learn all that I could about it.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
-I have always enjoyed meeting new people and it’s a wonderful feeling to see someone succeed at something. Kids have such awesome insight, too. I learned so much from them.
Questions about grades and practicum placement:
Will our lesson reviews impact our grade?
-Not necessarily. Yes, implementation and documentation are important, but the content of your lessons is more what we are focusing on. We will have MANY discussions about your lessons, so by the time you’re using them with students, you will have worked out all of the kinks. : )
Will this practicum only focus on literacy instruction or will we be working with other subjects?
-Yes, the focus is literacy – the two lessons you will be developing and teaching are reading and writing lessons. That being said, you can include other contents, but the main focus needs to be literacy.
Where are potential practicum placements?
-Any of the surrounding schools!
What exactly will we be doing while at our practicum sites?
-You will be assisting the classroom teacher, getting to know students, conducting running records, teaching lessons, etc. We will address more of these specifics during our next four on-campus meetings.
Will we be in the classroom from 9-12 only on Thursdays?
-We talked about this in class after you asked this question, but I’ll answer it again so you have it in writing. : ) No, you may set-up your practicum for other times if that works better for you and your cooperating teacher. I cannot change my schedule, so I will only visit classrooms during our class meeting time, but you do not have to be present when I visit. I know you’re going to want to see me, though. HA! In all seriousness, if you do change your practicum day, just make sure you’re staying in contact with me so I can answer any questions that arise.
Can we request specific schools for placement?
-I don’t think so. I believe the placement office is in charge of placing you. They will take into consideration the things you wrote on your placement form in class on Thursday.
How will we be placed for our practicums?
-The placement office takes into consideration the things you wrote down AND the availability of cooperating teachers.
How independent will we be for our practicum experience?
-It depends on the classroom you’re placed in. On my end, as long as you
’re able to teach the lessons we will develop, you have lots of freedom and independence. Make sure you’re communicating with the classroom teacher on a regular basis.
Does a school such as MSU stand out on applications vs other schools that aren’t thought of as having one of the better education programs?
-Good question. I can’t answer this for sure, but I have heard that prestigious schools make a better impression. A lot more goes into a job than where you got your education, though. Being a hard-worker, caring about kids, having a personality that meshes with others on your potential team, etc., all influence a hiring committee’s decision.
Should I get my accelerated masters while in school or wait until I have a job and have settled down?
-This is a personal opinion, but I say yes to doing it now, as long as you can handle the demands. I had a full-time job when I started my masters and it was very do-able. I was also coaching high school girls’ basketball, so things were crazy busy. We can chat more about this later if you’d like. I can tell you all about my experiences and what I learned from them.
I have been going back and forth between wanting to teach middle school and elementary. Are there ways I could become certified to teach both? Did you love middle school?
-I was in the same boat. My undergraduate degree is elementary education, but I also tested into 6th-9th ELA (English Language Arts) because I knew I eventually wanted to be in an ELA classroom. I know there is a new test now and I don’t know all the specifics about the new requirements, but it was fairly easy for me to add my middle school certification. Then, when I got my masters, I added a few courses to my course load to get my Special Reading Teacher Certification, so I am technically certified in that K-12. And yes, I LOVE middle school. A lot. 7th graders are my favorite.
I’m very interested in getting my masters in literacy and becoming an EC (early childhood) reading specialist. I graduate December 2019, should I start my masters Spring 2020?
-This is only my personal opinion (and what I did), but YES. I found it beneficial to just continue with school while I was used to the routine. I wasn’t sure if I would be able/even want to go back and take classes once I had taken a break. But that is totally just a personal opinion/preference! I can definitely talk to you more about this!
If you were to get another dog, what would you get?
-A Labradoodle or a Vizsla! We actually had a Vizsla, but she got lymphoma and passed away in August. It was terrible and I really miss her. She was the best dog and could run crazy miles with us – she once did 30 miles with my husband! I’ll bring in some pictures. : )
Questions about my PhD:
What did you write your dissertation on?
-My dissertation was on lived experiences of learning community in online college courses. I interviewed 12 undergraduate college students about their experiences with (or without) community in their online courses. It was a blast and I learned SO much. I have actually changed the way I teach my online courses based on participant answers.
Do you suggest getting your doctorate?
-This is a loaded question. It depends on your future goals. If you are research-minded and are interested in exploring certain topics, analyzing findings, and sharing those findings, I definitely think you’d enjoy the doctoral process. It’s a lot of work, but I thoroughly enjoyed it…except the projecting of my face on the screen that I shared in class. HA! ; )
How did you know you wanted to teach? At what point did you decide to get your doctorate?
-I honestly don’t know what made me want to teach. I actually wasn’t totally sold on the idea after student teaching. I had an AWFUL student teaching experience and had decided I wasn’t going to go into education. I can share more about this in class, but I don’t want to scare you! Most experiences are amazing; I just had a difficult cooperating teacher. : ) I interviewed for some jobs outside of education, but just wasn’t excited about them. I took a leap of faith and accepted a position teaching 5th grade in 2012. I’m so glad I did.
I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD about a year into my masters program. I just knew I wasn’t finished researching and learning. Funny story – I wanted to get my PhD from Arkansas, but when I called to speak to them about their program, they LAUGHED at me and told me to call back in a few years. Literally laughed. It totally broke my heart. I called Mizzou the next day, expecting to hear the same thing, and they were SO supportive and gave me all kinds of information to look over. My biggest piece of advice – do your research and find a school WORTH going to. You want a school that wants you – I mean, it’s expensive, so Arkansas lost out on thousands of dollars. I almost didn’t pursue my dream because of one negative phone conversation with them. Again, I’m so glad I did!
In my defense, they all floated to the top while this cooked.