My journey to becoming an elementary school teacher started 4 years ago when I made the decision to go back to college for my liberal studies degree. However, when I started grad school, I felt like my real journey was just beginning. Along with starting grad school, I started volunteering in a kindergarten class once a week. So now I am studying to get my MAT and multiple subject credentials along with being in a classroom once a week. As fun and as exciting this new journey has been, I had not anticipated the fear and doubt that would accompany it.
I was very excited to start my MAT/credential program as I was ready to learn how to become a teacher. But my first class did not teach me much about how to become a teacher. It taught me about social justice which I believe is very important to incorporate into the classroom. Yet I worried at how I could dismantle racism in my classroom when I do not even know how to manage a class! How can I teach my students to be antiracist when I don’t even know how to teach them how to read or write?!?! It worried me because I know a multiple subject teacher has to have their class meet so many standards that I didn’t know how I would have the time to incorporate social justice.
I have anxiety and I am an over thinker so these thoughts overwhelmed me. I became so frustrated that I broke down and called my boyfriend’s mom, Janet, who has been a teacher for 20 years. She reassured me that not only is it normal to cry in grad school, it is important. Janet explained how she felt very overwhelmed her first year teaching as she had a hard time getting the students to listen to her. She told me that becoming a teacher is hard and validated my feelings. But she also told me that teaching was an amazing job and I already had two major qualities that would help me be a great teacher. Janet said that I have great organization skills and a love for children. With those qualities, she said I was already a step above many teachers that have been teaching for years. Since I called her frustrated that my class wasn’t necessarily teaching me how to teach in the way I had hoped, we went through my class schedule together. She told me that in the classes for my master’s degree I will deal with more of the theoretical aspects of teaching such as social justice. Janet understood my frustration as she went through the same thing in grad school. She said when you first start a program you are so eager to learn how to teach and to begin teaching but to earn a master’s degree you have to go through some preliminary stuff first. Janet said when I take my credential classes I will learn how to teach. I have already seen this to be true in my second class of my program that is for my credentials. I feel I am starting to learn how to teach.
Being able to volunteer in a kindergarten classroom has given me so much insight into running a classroom and becoming a teacher. I am essentially already teaching children with the direction of a teacher. When I get home from volunteering, I write down the lesson plans and classroom management techniques that I liked and found helpful in my daily planner. This way when I become a teacher, I will be able to look back at these to help me in my own classroom. The teacher I volunteer for, Tina, along with other teachers at that school have become major resources to me. I am able to talk to them about the pros and cons of private school, my master’s program, and hacks for teaching. I was worried about being thrown blind into a classroom during my first year of teaching but Tina eased my worries about this. She said if I chose to teach in a public school then I will have a mentor teacher who is experienced in teaching the same grade as me. I will also have meetings with the other first year teachers and with the same teachers of my grade. Tina said that teachers who teach the same grade in public school are able to divide the lesson plan work amongst subjects and share each other’s lesson plans in their own classes. This conversation with her gave me so much knowledge that I was previously unaware of and made me more confident in becoming a teacher. It also made me decide that I wanted to teach in public school.
I still have doubt from time to time about how I will be able to run my own classroom. But the most important thing I have learned from this part of my teacher journey is how important it is to have resources and connections to a community of teachers. I am so lucky to have a boyfriend whose mom is an amazing elementary school teacher. And I am also so thankful USF gives us 40% off tuition for volunteering at a Catholic school because that opportunity has given me access to so many resources and insight into teaching. In my current class, we are working on a teacher toolbox of helpful websites for teaching. I have realized that in this part of my teacher journey I am creating an even bigger teacher toolbox of my own with literal teachers to connect with, lesson plan ideas, and the content I am learning in my grad school classes. The plethora of resources I have gained since volunteering and starting my MAT/credentials program has eased my worries of becoming a teacher as I know I will have many tools to help me when I start out.