Enrollment in the Ella Cline Shear School of Education requires that students spend one semester student teaching, a time-consuming and labor-intensive preview of everyday life as a working teacher.
In spite of the hardships endured during this semester, however, it seems most who come out of the experience find it rewarding.
For the majority of students living on campus, this semester is a carbon copy of those that came before it. Class times and living arrangements are different, but there generally exists the same aura of social familiarity. There is, however, an anonymous band of students living among the rest, standing in line in the dining halls, sprawled out with their papers at a table in the basement of Milne Library. They're the ones having a semester that is very different than those that came before.
Meet the student teachers.
The student teaching requirement must be met during senior year, during which an individual must devote either the fall or spring semester to two six-week placements in area school districts.
Senior Megan Musilli is currently in her first placement and said she is definitely feeling the difference this semester. "The only time I'm on campus now is to come to the library. You lose a lot of the social atmosphere," she said.
For Musilli and many others, probably the most notable change is the large chunk of time spent away from campus. "I'm still learning how to balance that," Musilli said. "It's tough. You're gone from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on top of that you have to prep assignments … I'm in the library until 7:30 p.m. prepping lessons or grading papers, and then I try to be in bed by 10 p.m."
So what draws a 20-something college senior to sacrifice her social life and hours of necessary sleep? "Getting to know the students and creating connections with them," said Musilli. "I look forward to going in and seeing certain students every day. Sometimes I'll go in and they have stories to tell me, or something they really want to show me."
Student teaching is the ultimate test for students seeking a certification in education. More than in any other program, these students are immersing themselves fully in their future careers, something many others probably won't be doing until after graduate school.
Student teaching prepares potential teachers for what's to come in their careers. A large part of this preparation is handling the multiplicity of obligations. Along with teaching in a classroom, the school of education requires its student teachers to submit a journal entry daily, observe two students, submit two unit lesson plans and attend seminars at Geneseo.
"I wish the school of education would realize that it's hard to actually focus on teaching when there are so many other things to do," Musilli said. On the other hand, she said that she already sees how this experience is positively affecting the way she'll teach in the future.
"My teacher right now - she's very humorous. She uses a lot of jokes and sarcasm, which is something we're taught to not do in the school of education," Musilli said, noting that she doesn't mind this approach. "I like it … she's teaching me that you don't have to be strict to earn respect."