As hundreds of education majors come into the College each year, those in their final semesters await the beginning of their careers with a mix of enthusiasm and anxiety. The student teaching program at Geneseo is designed to ease their nerves, build their confidence, and ultimately teach them on a level that no lecture hall can reach.
Senior Kristin Squires, a childhood with special education major, is student teaching at Rochester School #41 after her time at Rush-Henrietta Leary Elementary School. "It is a very unique experience, because you are placed in a classroom or in many classrooms for seven weeks and are expected to jump right in," she said. She has faced less-than-favorable teachers and students, but her adaptation to these challenges has prepared her for teaching better than anything else. "I've learned much more in this one semester about teaching than I have in all three-and-a half years of classes," she said. According to Squires, what student teachers take out of their experiences is what they make out of their experiences.
Along with her studies of English and theater, "teaching is just something I've always wanted to do," said senior Kristin McCrossin. In her time at Geneseo, teaching has become the hub into which she can incorporate all of her passions for the benefit of hundreds. In her time student teaching, McCrossin has been able to apply all that she has learned to real classrooms. "I've gained a lot of knowledge and self-confidence from all of my students," she said, referring to everything from cultural insight to teaching itself.
Her time in the classroom brings direct experience of the challenges and rewards of teaching. "A teacher makes two thousand decisions a day," she said, "and they all must be made in the snap of the finger. These conditions force the disciplines of time management, beginning with the end in mind, behavior management and setting the tone of the classroom before anything else. "It's hard work," McCrossin said, but "having such an impact on their lives makes it all worth it." She feels incredibly rewarded each time a student engages in the lesson. McCrossin will be pursuing her masters in special education at the secondary level after she graduates from Geneseo.
McCrossin emphasized the value of good teachers and mentors from Geneseo, without whom she could not have attained the optimum experience from student teaching. She recognized Dean Kerry McKeever, Dr. Elizabeth Hall, Jeannine Cox and John Williams as her greatest inspirations.
Williams, coordinator of student teaching, seemed as rewarded by the experience of his student teachers as they are. He has overseen several panels in order to give student teachers all they need for success in the near future. "Interviews for positions in education are quite competitive," he said, "and our teacher candidates can expect to answer questions dealing with a wide range of topics, including classroom management, knowledge of curriculum, knowledge of learning styles, disability awareness, meeting the needs of a diverse student population, communicating effectively with parents and other community members, and professional growth, among others."
According to junior Mike Reiff, the sentiment of most education majors going into student teaching is a mix of trepidation and enthusiasm. Reiff himself is excited to work with professionals who have no distance from the field he will soon be entering. Coming from a line of educators, he was inspired to be a teacher from a young age, finding many of his role models in the classroom. "The only profession you ever see growing up day-to-day is teaching," Reiff said. He looks forward to the experience that next semester has in store and ultimately to his profession as a secondary English teacher.
Student teaching provides an opportunity that no course can parallel. "We talk about really important issues in the classroom," McCrossin said, "but I've learned most of what I've learned through experience."