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Education Matters: The makings of a good teacher

May 19, 2011|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

There are two trials by ordeal to which aspiring teachers are subjected before they are placed in a classroom and given a full-time job.

First comes practice teaching, which is the culmination of a year of requisite educational prep courses that are, as any teacher will tell you, entirely divorced from the reality of the classroom. Student teaching — real practice in a real classroom — is the only meaningful preparation for the profession. It is a leap into the great unknown of a classroom filled with minds that go from inquiring to resistant, from outgoing to painfully shy, from involved to apathetic, from self-motivating to slug-like.

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You’re lucky at this stage if you like what you see and you think you made a good career choice. Some are not so lucky, but forge ahead anyway into a career that they are possibly ill-suited for.

Then there is substituting, which involves a special kind of torment for an aspiring teacher — getting paid to stand in for the regular teacher whose students, even the good ones, are programmed to make life miserable for the sub.

From a student perspective, substitutes are a welcome relief from the routine of the regular classroom teacher. The expectations for the day are always less demanding, the confusion of the substitute is easily exploited, and his/her presence is an irresistible target for just about every kid in class.

Who doesn’t remember the rallying cry, “Get the sub”?

Looking back on that four-month period of my life, I clearly recall some of the trials and tribulations that went along with being a sub. My arrival was always greeted with great rejoicing for the one-hour respite from their daily grind.

When each class began, the comedians immediately made themselves known to me and usually had the support of their classmates. Their main mission was to convince me that the regular teacher let the class do pretty much whatever they wanted to do. “Mr. _______ always lets us work together, sit where we want to sit, go to the bathroom whenever we ask, listen to music through earphones, eat if we’re hungry, sleep if we’re tired, etc. etc. “

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