Kelly Eddington, a recent graduate now teaching at Bear River High School, has learned to enjoy her interactions with the sophomores and juniors she teaches. “As a student teacher I was a little unsure how to interact with the students and how to make connections,” said Eddington. “Just from experience and practice I have learned to connect with teenagers and get to know them as people. I am more patient with their sometimes ‘disruptive’ behavior because I see them as kids who just want to have fun.”
Eddington’s experience with student teaching is not an uncommon one; many student teachers have to face realities of teaching that they did not realize existed before. The challenges are different for all teachers, but the reality is always the same—being a new teacher isn’t easy. However, early teaching experiences and mentoring can help foster good habits even though it is difficult.
“I loved my student teaching experience, but one of the hardest things for me was probably the thing that helped me the most,” said Eddington. “The constant self-reflections and evaluations were sometimes difficult. It’s hard to force yourself to sit and reflect on a lesson, especially a bad lesson, because it’s easier to just say– well that was rough, I’ll try better next time.”
Her student mentoring helped her instill good techniques such as self-evaluations and adjust to teaching full-time with her own classroom. Her mentor was a crucial part of the learning process thanks to the daily feedback she received.
“My mentor, Travis Lemon, is an incredible teacher and mentor,” said Eddington. “Almost every day after teaching we would sit down together and discuss how class went and specifically why. So if the lesson went well we would pinpoint the reason for the success. If the lesson went poorly we would look at what caused the struggle. This really helped me be aware of my teaching. Instead of just saying sweet, that was a great lesson and moving on, I learned to pause and consider why it went well. This reflection helped me to continue doing things that created good lessons and try to avoid those things that caused problems to student learning.”
Eddington’s self-reflections helped improve her teaching and gave her confidence to tackle new challenges in new circumstance such as her current job at Bear River High School.
“I use a very different style of teaching at BRHS,” said Eddington. “Currently my teaching is not as task based as I would like. In my student teaching the school used a task based curriculum and I was able to focus on how to guide student learning and let them lead the lessons. In my current school our curriculum is very traditional and most of the math teachers have a traditional outlook on teaching mathematics. As a first year teacher I don’t have the time, energy, or skill to make every lesson task based.”
Eddington realized that she learned a lot from both her education at BYU and her student teaching. She offered the following advice for young teachers like herself and those still pursuing their degrees.
- Avoid focusing on too many things at once. Pick one thing and work on it.
- High level learning is possible for everyone and that math can be understood by everyone.
- Try to teach as much as you can as early as you can.