Dear Student Teacher,
I have never told you this, but about this time last spring I considered quitting teaching.
It had been a rough year. We had lost several students to tragedy and my heart was tired. I was drowning trying to balance being a good teacher, being a good colleague, working on graduate courses, balancing meetings, coaching slam poetry, and all other parts of “real life” outside of my job. I was completely burned out. I just felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and knew I was failing at it all.
I had even applied for several jobs outside of teaching, assuming I needed a change. When the end of May came, I decided that I should probably at least finish my master’s program in education before completely bailing on the career. And as most teachers will relate, the summer healed some of my stress.
But with the start of the new school year, I felt the weight return to my shoulders. I tried not to show it, but I just felt like I was treading water every day. The smallest things were keeping me up at night and I just didn’t think I could handle the stress of it all. I still deeply cared about my students, but I was so preoccupied with the challenges and problems in my job that I just felt like a poser. On the outside, I tried to act confident and energized, but on the inside, I was falling apart.
In late fall, I was told you would be my student teacher from January to May. I was petrified. I thought:
“I am not the best version of myself right now. I don’t even know if I want to keep teaching and now I’m supposed to guide someone into the path that I don’t even think I can continue?!”
I was completely terrified that I would ruin you and I had not even met you yet. I worried about this for months. I talked with colleagues who assured me that it would be a good thing, but even they were unaware of my insecurities and struggles with teaching.
And then the day came… you burst into my classroom with the most excited smile and lights behind your eyes. You had such a passionate aura and a ridiculous amount of energy. You were ready to the light the world on fire with your teaching… I could tell. I remembered when I thought I could light the world on fire.
I thought: I’m going to ruin her. I’m going to kill her spirit. She deserves someone better who knows what they are doing and feels confident about the teacher they are.
As I began integrating you into my classroom, you asked questions. Lots of them. Some that really made me reflect and think about before answering. Even as we delivered my lessons, you jumped right in and didn’t hesitate. You were so confident in the difference you were going to make. I was floored. I remembered feeling that passion.
As you began taking over, I heard you say “I found this cool lesson idea last night, I’m going to try it today…” I remembered how I used to find that cool lesson idea and try it the next day.
As you got to know our students, you pointed out those who were really struggling and you really dedicated yourself to those students instead of letting them barely slide by… I remembered doing that.
I saw your enthusiasm and remembered why I became a teacher in the first place.
Your energy was contagious. I loved working side by side with you in the classroom. I loved bouncing ideas off each other and working in tangent to keep all students on task and engaged. I loved how we kept each other motivated when the caffeine wore off. It was seriously awesome. You became a vital part of our classroom.
Then you took over. (And for the record, you were amazing…) You were reflective, passionate, engaging, and dedicated. You were helping students overcome challenges, taking risks with your lessons, listening to your students and building relationships in the classroom… your passion and energy were helping students succeed.
But after a few weeks of not being the teacher, I began missing it desperately. I found myself envying the work you were doing with students. I was so excited for the success you were having with even the “tough” ones and realized I missed those challenges.
In the last few weeks, I have done some serious soul searching. In this soul searching, I’ve found myself thinking:
I miss seeing students overcome challenges.
I miss being there for them when they need someone to listen.
I miss finding an awesome new tool and trying it out in the classroom.
I miss using my energy to inspire students to succeed.
I miss students.
I miss teaching.
I want to light the world on fire again.
That short time of not teaching made me realize that I belong in the classroom. It is absolutely where I want to be. And I honestly don’t know if I would have come to that same realization without your help.
Next week you are graduating and leaving to run your own classroom. It will feel weird to look over at your desk and not have you grinning back at me. You don’t know what you have done for me, but I will never be able to repay you. I dread saying goodbye to you and I warn you I’m a bit of a crier in those situations.
However, I feel like I’ve found my teacher voice again. I can’t wait to set the world on fire again and pour the same passion I started with (in my student teaching) back into my classroom.
You know who you are and I can never thank you enough.
Sincerest Thank You,
Read more about having a student teacher:
- Step Aside: The Art of Working with Student Teachers (EdWeek)
- Are You Prepared To Be a Cooperating Teacher (EdWeek)
- What We Can Learn From Student Teachers
Keep the conversation going…
- What have been your student teaching experiences?
- What experiences have you had as a cooperating teacher?
- What fears may occur during the student teaching period for both the student teacher and the cooperating teacher?
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