Education major learns a lesson about student-teaching

By Naomi Miyake

The classroom was filled with squirmy fourth- and fifth-graders as they fidgeted with their pencils and papers. Giggles and chatter filled the room as they waited for the last lesson of the day – character-building – to begin. Lisa Koester stood at the front of the room, trying to settle the students down.

“What does it mean to be a good citizen?” Koester asked her students. “Raise your hand and tell me.”

Koester is a fifth-year senior majoring in education. As part of her coursework, she student-teaches at Thomasboro Grade School in Thomasboro, Ill. Education majors are assigned to teach at different schools in towns close to the University to gain classroom experience.

Koester works alongside the classroom’s official teacher and is responsible for constructing lesson plans for subjects such as English and social studies – classes she hopes to teach in the future.

Koester has a jam-packed schedule, which she says can be very exhausting.

“We have teaching two days a week and then 17 credit hours the other three days and the classes are much more demanding than other classes I’ve taken,” Koester said. “I spend all night working on lesson plans … It’s like, ‘How am I going to keep these kids occupied and interested for six hours?'”

Despite the hard work, Koester said it’s all worth it in the end.

“Just seeing students who normally don’t care … and then being able to reach them and find something that sparks their interest … when you finally find that, it’s pretty rewarding,” she said.

Susan Trotter, a substitute teacher at Thomasboro Grade School, said she also agrees that teaching can be a rewarding experience.

“The light bulb moment when you’re teaching something and suddenly you see the kid say, ‘I got it!’ – that’s my favorite part,” Trotter said.

Although teaching can be a good experience, it can also have its downfalls. The second week Koester was teaching, she drew up a lesson plan that bombed and resulted in total chaos. But Koester said she learned a lot from that experience.

Another difficulty she faced involved a student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder who wouldn’t cooperate with her or the other students.

“He just started stabbing his paper with his pencil and just ripping it up and tearing it to shreds, and I just didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Koester said that she usually takes her students aside when they are misbehaving because it is in her teaching philosophy to abstain from embarrassing her students in front of others.

“That’s usually the toughest thing, trying to meet them at their levels, keep from getting frustrated and acting out,” she said.

Koester believes in order to be an effective teacher, one must possess patience and respect for students along with a genuine interest in the children’s lives. Koester said she also tries to avoid traditional methods of teaching such as memorization, drilling and lecturing.

Last week Koester brought in treats and had each student vote on a snack to teach them about the Electoral College.

“I don’t like teaching a lesson from a lesson plan,” she said. “I try to let the students guide, follow their interests – not so teacher-direct and out of a textbook.”

That afternoon, Koester taught the role different citizens play in a community by assigning jobs to each student and having them pair up to interview one another.

Clayton Flessner, 11, enjoyed the activity Koester included in her lesson.

“It is fun pretending to be different jobs and asking each other questions,” Flessner said as he sat behind his desk, waiting for his bus. “She is a really good teacher.”