Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Student Teaching Revisited: A New Teacher's First Day in the Classroom

This past spring I received an award from Young Audiences of Greater Cleveland naming me the Northeast Ohio Arts Educator of the Year. Upon recieving that distinction, Cool Cleveland published an interview with me. One of the questions asked about any mistakes I ever made during the course of my career.
I am going to repost my answer namely because I've been thinking about student teaching since I am getting an intern from Cleveland State University next week.
Secondly, I'm reposting it becuase it is just a darn good story...and every word of it is true.

My student teaching assignment was eighth grade art at Glouster Middle School. Glouster is located in southern Ohio, a depressed coal mining town, buried in the Appalachian foothills.
Back in those days, the student teacher came in to the school, worked with the cooperating teacher in the classroom for a few days, then the cooperating teacher took off to the teachers lounge, and the student teacher was on her own.

This was to be my very first day teaching classes alone.
I said goodbye to my Co-op teacher at the door of the lounge, and headed to my class. When I walked in the door, there was the entire class in a crowded circle at the center of the room, yelling at two big ol’ boys trying to beat each other senseless.

Hey, I grew up with brothers, no problem!

I convinced a few of the bigger kids to pull the combatants apart. I then put on the meanest, craziest face my 21 year old, little 110 lb. self could muster grabbed a heavy wooden chair by the teachers desk, and slammed it up against the wall. I pointed at red-faced Jimmy and said, "You! Sit there."
To my secret surprise, he sat. I grabbed a second chair, and slammed it into the wall next to the first. The other boy, Billy, a hulking 16-year-old, crumpled to the floor weeping.
"My foot! You hit my foot!"
I wasn’t going to fall for that ploy. Remember, I had brothers.
"Get up, you big baby. You're not hurt. Go to the office!"
The boys limped off, everybody sat down, and I started class.

I was sooooooo cool.

That afternoon, there was a knock on the classroom door. It was the principal. He looked very serious.
"Miss Miles, there was a fight in your class this morning?"
I nodded.
"We had to take Billy to the hospital. He has a broken foot."
All my mind could do was scream "SSSSHITTTT!!!!!!"
Four years of college down the drain.

"Billy’s father would like to speak with you."
What little blood was left in my face drained completely when I saw the man who was coming around the corner. He looked like a tattooed mountain wearing a wife-beater undershirt and a ZZ Top beard.
"Hey !" he drawled, extending his hand. "My boy got in a fight in your class?" My "Yes sir." was barely audible.
"Now listen" he said, and grabbed my hand, "if that boy gives you any more trouble you just go ahead and break his other foot. You got my permission."
His face broke into a big smile and he pumped my arm in the heartiest handshake of my life. Then both men turned around and headed back down the hall to the school office.
I could hear them chuckling.

I can recall standing there for a long time, amazed and bewildered by what had just happened. I had always considered myself lucky, but this went beyond being lucky, to the realm of the bizarre.
My career has maintained that tenor throughout the years, and I have received somewhat twisted satisfaction in the knowledge that as long as I continue to teach, I will never be bored.

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