Jennifer Minton is a Virginia Teacher of Promise 2020 who completed a post baccalaureate program in education at Old Dominion University. She holds a B.A. in History from DePauw University and an M.A. in History from the National University of Ireland.
Like so many other things, student teaching had to adapt during the pandemic response. In Virginia, our governor was one of the first to close schools for the remainder of the school year. That was in March. I was only halfway through my student teaching program – a program I spent years building to and preparing for, the most important part of my teacher training experience. I had finally gotten in a rhythm, I knew my kids, and we had great things planned. Then it all changed.
Although the Virginia Department of Education made accommodations for student teachers last semester, my main concern is: Did I learn everything I could from this student teaching experience?
After reflection, here are four things I learned:
- Keep building your network. From the first day in your education program to your retirement, keep building your network. Maintain contact with your professors and other students from your program. Keep in contact with the school that you student taught in, as well as teachers with whom you worked closely. Networking will not only help you become more acquainted with the district, but it will allow you to reach out for help and advice in situations you did not experience during student teaching.
- Attend professional learning and development opportunities. Find opportunities for professional learning and development. Contact your university program for help. KDP also offers webinars on a variety of subjects. Attending the webinars and asking questions allows you to connect and network with more experienced teachers and educational advocates.
- Find a buddy. When I started student teaching, I was lucky to have another student teacher in my advisory group. We both had similar struggles at the beginning of our student teaching experience. By sharing our experiences with one another, we were able to come up with solutions to problems we were having in our classrooms. This is an important part of growing as an educator – you cannot do it alone!
- Be flexible and stay positive. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to stay positive in rough times. Students as well as other teachers and administrators can pick up on your positive attitude through virtual interviews, and it will reflect how you will be in your classroom your first year when things really get tough.
Although this is not how I planned on completing my education program, with virtual interviews instead of in person and not being in the classroom with my students, it has taught me to be flexible and persevere for the better times to come.
Professional Development Resources
National Education Association Professional Development Opportunities – nea.org/home/30998.htm