If I have learned anything in the last four years of college it is that time just keeps moving faster and faster. There were times during my college career that I wished I could just freeze in order to really figure out what my attention needed to be focused on. Looking back, I realize that there are many things I would tell myself if I could start over. To make your life more easier I have compiled a list of advice in hopes that you will figure out what I have learned sooner than I did.
1. Work with kids as much as possible- No matter what the age, race, background or situation, find a way to work with kids. During student teaching, I have been told several times that I am a very "natural" teacher and seem comfortable in front of the class- and that is because I AM comfortable. I have worked with literally every age group, and I have figured out tendencies and personalities that are common in each group. Figuring out these tendencies has tremendously helped me in being able to communicate to students.
2. Take every assignment seriously- SERIOUSLY! There have been so many instances just in the last 6 weeks where I have wished I payed attention to a certain lesson more closely, or put more work into a certain project because I could have used it while teaching. Instead, I am re-making lesson plans, or researching information to figure out what I need to know to be successful teaching.
3. Actually READ the chapter- This goes along with #2... It is a frustrating feeling when a group of teachers is talking about something that you remember reading in a text book somewhere, but you cannot figure out exactly what it is they are talking about. HINT- Education is FULL of acronyms... ARD, CALLA, ATE, NAEP to name only a FEW. When these acronyms are flying out of mouths everywhere in the school building, it's nice to know what they stand for.
4. Study for your certification tests now- Yes, in a perfect world you wouldn't have to study at all if you really read the chapters and took your assignments seriously, but I understand you are human and sometimes it's easier just to get by. It does take a load of stress off in the end if you are aware of what you should be remembering for the certification tests. OH MY how awesome would it have been to look over the test study guide sophomore year of college and be able to note information as I learned it.
5. Build your library- Start collecting children's books or young teen novels so that when you actually have a classroom, you don't have to start from scratch. Most libraries periodically have book sales where you can fill up a grocery sack full of books for around $5... FIND THOSE!
6. Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer!- I cannot stress this enough! I constantly rave about how fortunate I am to be in the student teaching situation that I am in... and this situation unfolded due to the fact that I voluntarily worked in this amazing elementary school on my days off from class. I gained real world experience when others were simply learning from text. The willingness to give your time volunteering is a BIG indicator of what kind of teacher you will be. Teachers are constantly asked for their time and when you show that you are willing to give your time, you are making yourself a more marketable candidate for hire.
7. Make friends with EVERYONE- It is important to have support from everywhere when you teach. Having people on your side-from the janitor, to the vice principal and everyone in between- is a very great way to have a successful and enjoyable career. Start making friends NOW by volunteering and through student teaching. It is important to have a good reputation and making friends is a good way to get one.
8. Become passionate about SOMETHING- This is incredibly important! It is extremely easy to get bogged down with everything that is required from you as an education major, but having something to drive you will help you stay on track to meet your ultimate goal. Whether you want to see change in education through the use of music or technology, or you want to be a support system for English language learners, whatever it is, find something that you stand for. A willingness to make a difference is the only motivation you need to keep you excited about your chance to teach in the near future.
9. Think about the future- I wish I could shout this from the rooftops. PLAN AHEAD! I was able to graduate in 4 years- but this is quickly becoming an unusual occurrence for college students. My classes were filled with 5th and 6th year seniors, and it wasn't because they were lazy or unintelligent, it was mainly due to planning issues. I was able to take summer classes and pack my semesters in order to graduate in 4 years, but I would advise that you look ahead at your degree plan and decide when you need to take certain classes and what you need to do in order to be successful. I have always been geared to think of the future, and it has really helped me in having every form filled out, every assignment done and every deadline met in time to have a life as well! Planning is essential and a conscious mind for what is coming will make the difference between 4 years in college and years worth of wasted time and money.
I'm just an Elementary Nerd sharing my excitement for the classroom!
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