In November, registration for next semester’s classes is imminent, end of semester projects are being assigned, and final exams are just a month away. But for ONU’s education majors, there is a different kind of pressure at play.
The start of November marks the end of the weeks education students have spent student teaching at various schools in preparation for their future careers. More importantly, they must now pass their Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) to determine whether or not they will get their Illinois teaching license.
“Almost everyone in that room is just exhausted,” senior Sydney Hyde said, referring to the class for student teachers taught by Dr. Glenn and Dr. Brady every Thursday in the Weber Center. “Being a full-time teacher, as we are right now, and balancing college at the same time is really something to learn how to handle.”
Senior Breanna Creek agreed. “I probably spent 80 hours on [the edTPA],” Creek said. “It was just so time consuming.”
The culmination of their hard work has been several years in the making for ONU’s student teachers, some of who entered college with a completely different career path in mind.
Creek had planned to be a psychologist, but felt in her junior year of high school that God was calling her to be a teacher.
“That’s what I love, and that’s what I’m excited about doing,” Creek said.
Although Hyde came to ONU intending to become a nurse, her plans began to change as she reached her sophomore year.
“Over the summer, I was working with children,” Hyde said. “I’ve worked with kids my whole life, and I started to realize I wasn’t really enjoying nursing and I just wasn’t as into it as I was with teaching.”
Hyde has been an elementary education major ever since. A passion for working with children seems to be what connects most student teachers.
After realizing how much she enjoyed working with middle school kids, senior Kayla Hallstrom said, “Teaching seemed like a good fit.”
To become official teachers, students enter a real classroom for hands-on experience. They begin as observers, but slowly take on more teaching responsibilities until they are in full control by the final weeks. But even then, they still receive consultation and assistance from their overseeing teacher.
Hyde and the original teacher of her seventh-grade Language Arts class work together to create lesson plans so they will be on the same track. Hallstrom does the same in her classroom, and has great respect for both of her cooperating teachers. However, staying on the same page can be a challenge, she said.
“You have two opinions and sometimes you’re opposites, so you have to be able to work with each other to get to the common goal,” Hallstrom said.
As teaching is a career that revolves almost entirely around collaboration and compromise, this is a lesson that will last a lifetime. But it’s not the only one student teachers pick up throughout their experiences.
“I’ve learned that I thought I was organized before, and now I’m at the next level of organization,” Hyde said. “You really have to think about every little detail.”
She also believes that connecting with the students is equally important.
“Show you know similar songs or TV shows or characters…little things like that,” Hallstrom said, who teaches both Language Arts and Science at the sixth-grade level.
As seniors, many student teachers are already looking to the future and considering their job opportunities. Teaching, like so many job markets, is highly competitive, especially for those just starting out.
“As a new teacher, I will take anything I can get,” Hyde said, although her preferred level would be fifth-grade to middle school.
Creek, having experiences with a variety of grades, feels she’ll be happy no matter where she ends up.
For ONU’s education majors, who will one day be in their shoes, Hallsworth, Creek and Hyde offer some final words of guidance.
“Stick with it. Take it day by day,” Hallsworth said.
“Do what you can to prepare for the edTPA before the semester starts,” Creek said.
“Work your hardest at everything you do,” Hyde said. “Not only is teaching rewarding for you, but it’s rewarding when you see the students learning and you see the outcomes of your hard work.”
— Laura Bechtel, Staff Writer