My Student Teaching Experience

I’m a member of a Facebook group called #teacherproblems. As usual for me, I’m mostly a lurker. Then something suddenly catches my attention and I have a ton to say. This is one of those cases. 

The question was “Out of curiosity: what was your student teaching experience like?” And oh boy, do I have a bunch to share!

Mine was so bad, my teaching adviser pulled me out of the school a few weeks before it was officially over. It was 6th grade at a middle school in Georgia. The students were wonderful, and I never had a single issue. I was 7 months pregnant when I started, healthy, and having no problems at all. I never missed a day.

But apparently I went to the wrong college (Fort Valley State) and I was married to the wrong type of man (Hispanic). My mentor teacher couldn’t have been more obvious with her racist attitude.

I was abandoned within a week of entering her classroom, but I did just fine. However, things kept disappearing. I came in one day and the overhead projector was gone. (yeah I’m old! ;-P) I taught math and used it to work out problems with the students. She told me it wasn’t hers but borrowed from another teacher who suddenly wanted it back. So I moved a stool up to the board and worked from there since I did need to rest my feet and back every once in a while being as far along as I was. A few days later, the stool vanished. She told me it had belonged to yet another teacher and she now needed it.

She even went so far as to have the AP come to the room and turn off the AC, claiming it was too cold. Did I mention I was in Georgia? By this time it was late April and humid hot. But it wasn’t her problem. She was hanging out in the office instead of her classroom. I had to call my adviser to get the AC turned back on!

I would go an entire week and never see her. One day she decided that I hadn’t been completing lesson plans because I hadn’t asked for her help, as if I could have since she was never there! I showed her my book and all my plans that had been approved by my adviser who had also observed me many times already. She then went on to run down my college again.

By this point, the other 6th grade teachers seemed to feel bad for me but didn’t want to stand up to my mentor teacher. After all, she was the team leader and seemed to be very favored by the administration. They had to work with her, whereas I was temporary. I don’t blame them, but I wished they had been willing to put a stop to her nasty behavior.

What finally made my adviser pull me out was when the 6th grade team scheduled a field trip that involved picnicking and hiking trails and I was expected to chaperone. I told her that I would not be doing that because it was not allowed by my college AND I was now approaching the last month of my pregnancy. Hiking trails? Really? I told her that as a student teacher, I’m required to report to my college adviser on any day that I am not actually teaching in my assigned class. She told me, at that point, that my college adviser didn’t tell her what to do and I would have to spend the day subbing.

I called my adviser. She told me to leave immediately and report to the college. She called the middle school and informed the AP that the mentor teacher was violating the agreement they had for their student teachers, had been verbally abusive, had made no effort to support me in her classroom, had created a hostile environment for me, and that I would not be returning to the school except to submit my final grades for the grading period.

You see, I had been in there for the entire grading period by myself and had assigned and graded all assignments and tests. The mentor teacher had done nothing with the kids.

But on the day I was to turn in my grade book and complete the report cards (they wrote them out by hand), I entered the classroom at the required time after school, but she wasn’t there. I waited for a while but she never came in. I called the office and they told me she would be there soon. I waited 20 more minutes and nothing. So I decided to sit down and complete the report cards that were stacked on the desk and, I assumed, were waiting for me to complete. Imagine my shock when I realized that the math grades for my students had already been filled out. Yep, my mentor teacher entered FAKE grades for all of my kids. She had no work, no quizzes, no projects, no grades whatsoever to base these report card grades on, but apparently it didn’t matter. She didn’t care.

I still think about those kids. There were some who had grown by leaps and bounds and should have received A’s and B’s instead of the lower grades I saw on those report cards. That bothered me more than anything she did to me and I’ve never forgotten the anger I felt.

Now I’m getting ready to begin my 27th year of teaching middle school. That Hispanic husband of mine is still mine after 31 years. After I started my career, he left the USAF, went to college, and became a teacher too. He’s starting his 23rd year in middle school.

And that education I got from Fort Valley State University has never failed me and I still think about how lucky I was to have such a wonderful academic adviser who went out of her way to protect her student teachers.

And yes, I think about that evil mentor teacher too. I’m sure she’s long since retired by now, and I hope she’s reaped whatever she’s sowed. People who do evil to others have no business being in positions of authority and certainly should NEVER be teachers.

But as much as I hated that time, I know my bad experience wasn’t wasted. After a student teaching experience like that, my first year as a 7th grade math teacher was a breeze! ?