Saturday, August 30, 2014

The #1 Motto: Dress for Success

Although I'm only in my third week of student teaching, I've spent quite a few hours in various schools in Cedar Falls. The Teacher Education program at UNI does a great job of getting you in the classroom right away--even before you're officially admitted to the program! If there's one thing I've learned from those experiences it's this: you've gotta dress the part.

I remember doing my Level 1 Field Experience at Cedar Falls High School (coincidentally with the same teacher I'll be student teaching with come October!) and observing a Spanish 4 class. Like hello, I was only a few months older than these students. My teacher encouraged me to do an activity with them, and I had all sorts of fear that they wouldn't have any respect for me... I was basically one of them! Since I couldn't change the age gap, I had to change the way I presented myself. If you look the part of a teacher, students will respect you as a teacher. Dressing professionally is a key component of widening the age gap between you and the students.

HOWEVER. I truly believe that it is important to be your genuine self with your students. Obviously I'm not talking about divulging every last detail of your personal life to them, but giving them glimpses of who you really are. An easy way to show your personality in the classroom is via your outfit! Dressing like a teacher doesn't necessarily mean wearing only neutral colors or wearing dress pants and a blouse every day. BORING. I'm enjoying putting outfits together every day that showcase my personality! I included a few examples of my "teacher outfits" throughout this post.

What I've also figured out is that professional clothing is pretty pricey. My strategy is to splurge on pieces I know I'll wear a lot, like solid color dress pants, and find clearance items for things I can only wear once in a while, like printed tops or dresses. I spent a nice chunk of change on two pairs of excellent quality trousers from Express, but I have been continuously checking the sales at Target to find fun tops to pair with them.

Before I buy anything, however, I consider how many ways I can wear something. I ask myself, "Can I wear this with tights and boots in the winter?" or "Can I pair this with multiple cardigans?" Too avoid spending too much money, it's important to mix and match pieces. I try to change it up each day with different accessories like shoes, earrings, necklaces and headbands to bring something new to the outfit. When a 9th grade student compliments some part of my outfit, I know I did a great job. Like the day one student told me my eyeliner was "on point", that was quite a self-esteem boost. Sadly, it's repeating outfits is unavoidable, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Crossing over to the "other side of the desk"

 It's official. I've finished my time as a student at UNI and I'm no longer taking classes--I'm crossing over the to the "other side of the desk" as I begin my semester of student teaching. I'm doing my field experience in Cedar Falls, IA at Peet Junior High and Cedar Falls High School, spending eight weeks at each respective school. I've already spent two weeks at Peet Junior High and I'm loving it! Before I get into the dirty details of teaching life, here's a brief update of my life post-graduation.

Y-Camp kids!
First of all, I only graduated on a technicality. I'll be officially done with school in December upon completion of my student teaching. I spent the summer working at the Black Hawk County YMCA as a Day Camp Counselor. I had a great time getting to know all the elementary kids, planning fun activities for them, and going on field trips with them. I worked primarily with the youngest group of campers, the six and seven-year-olds. I quickly found out that I am 100% not patient enough to work with that age group. Tying shoes and reminding kids to go to the bathroom every hour is just not my cup of tea, but they genuinely love you and aren't afraid to show it. It's precious.

I started at Peet Jr. High on Monday, August 11th at 7:30am sharp. I am not typically and early riser--it has been a serious adjustment for me! The first three days were dedicated to training, so I spent a lot of time listening and not really participating, since I didn't really have a clue what was going on. It reminded me a lot of RA training! Spending time around teachers prepping for their students to come on the first day of school is about equivalent to prepping for my residents to move in for the past two years.

First day of school outfit!
I had a lot of worries about student teaching--that it would be awkward, that the students wouldn't like me, that I would forget how to speak Spanish. Or... you know that feeling you have when you are arriving at a babysitting job but the parents are still getting ready to leave? And you have to interact with the kids awkwardly in front of them? I thought student teaching would feel a lot like that. However, it's been delightful ever since the first day. My cooperating teacher, Mr. Ochoa, is amazing. He's a veteran at Peet--he's been there for fifteen years--but is a pretty cool guy! He's been doing a wonderful job of sharing responsibilities with me and making me feel very welcomed.

The students are awesome too! We have five sections of Spanish 1, all 9th graders. They are hilarious. I forgot what it was like to be fourteen--and I am reminded every day. Obviously I have some sections that I like more than others, but overall they are great. I've even gotten compliments on my outfits and accessories, so they know how to win my affection. I try to relate to the students (like when I bonded with a girl over how we both play the Kim Kardashian Hollywood game) but also keep a boundary of professionalism and gain their respect so they listen to me when I give directions. So far, so good. It's amazing how large the difference is between a six-year-old and a freshman. I'm just happy I don't have to tie their shoes.