The Reality of Teaching

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By Jennifer Collins, Educational Leadership author

Educational Leadership: What I Wish My Professors Had Told MeAt some point in every university semester, a dark cloud of “reality” seems to surround my pre-service teachers, similar to the one that perpetually follows Charlie Brown’s buddy Pigpen. It always seems to catch me by surprise because it’s such a juxtaposition to the semester’s start.

This is the semester when my students get into classrooms for the first time. It’s their first chance to flex their teaching muscles and to apply what they’ve learned in the last two years. They come out of the gates fresh and excited; the promise of “finally getting to teach” sets them off at a fast clip. Then the realities of teaching begin to set in. They find that classrooms are filled with free-thinking little humans who refuse to follow the meticulous classroom management plan that earned my students an A in a methods course the previous semester. They learn that yoga pants are not considered “teacher clothes.” And instead of teaching lessons that share content they are passionate about, my students are more likely formulating plans to meet performance-based teaching requirements for licensure. My pre-service teachers drag themselves from their classroom placements and into my methods class. They look at me forlornly and ask, “Is this what teaching really is?”

Yes, some of it is what teaching “really is,” but as we educators know, it is a whole heck of a lot more. Hence the rise of the pep talk I share in my May 2016 Educational Leadership article, “What I Wish My Professors Had Told Me.” There have been many iterations of it–beginning with the early career teachers I mentored and now with my pre-service teachers. Over the years, it has proven to give some hope–and laughs–to our newest colleagues. What advice would you add?

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Jennifer Collins is assistant professor in the School of Education at University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

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