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Final Reflection on Student Teaching Experience:

The beginning of this spring semester marked two major events it was exactly a year to
the day when I first entered into the post-bachelors licensure program, and the start of my student
teaching experience the culminating event which would help me to understand exactly who I
am, can, and want to be as a teacher. A pivotal day to say the least.
When I first received my placement at Poudre Community Academy, I was initially quite
nervous. I had not anticipated the possibility of working in an alternative school, and I couldnt
even imagine what might lay in store for me in terms of students and environment. My
imagination ran a bit wild, I am slightly embarrassed to admit, with thoughts of a facility
reserved and designed for dealing with the most problematic of students. However, as it turns
out the school and the students were the exact opposite of what my unchecked imagination had
conjured up. The students I would come to work with and know are the most amazing and
dynamic set of young adults I have had the pleasure to work with. In spite of the difficult pasts
that have made up much of their young lives, they are kind, respectful, devoted, highly
interesting, all-around wonderful people to be around, and I feel honored to have been able to
have spent this past semester getting to know them and working with them. The staff and faculty
of the school are of equal measure, and the sense of acceptance and community that they all
create permeates throughout the school and creates a feeling of comfort that I have yet to
experience in any other facility.
In terms of successes, I feel that I have had many during my tenure at PCA. I was able to
quickly ingratiate myself into the school, gaining the trust and respect of the students and staff
within the first week of my arrival. Their acceptance, in turn, reflected in me a sense of duty and
pride and investment in the well-being and success of each and every student in my classes to a
degree I hadnt imagined possible outside of immediate family. Through the relationships I was
able to develop with the students, I was able to help many of them realize the true scope of their
potential that had previously gone unrecognized. Even before the beginning of the semester, as I
spent time at the school working with some students as I completed the required hours for my
AVID certification, I was to help them catch up on missing work and bring their grades up to
passing simply by letting them know that I had (and still have) full confidence in their abilities. I
discovered that I have a natural calmness and way of interacting with students that allows them
to relax and feel comfortable around me and recognize that I am not simply their teacher, but

their advocate as well I learned that I can completely be myself and that self makes for an
excellent teacher in terms of relating to students.
In regard to my instructional experience, I feel that I had an equal balance of failures and
successes. Before the start of the semester, in meeting and speaking with Connie, she had
informed me that she wanted me to design a unit on the short story for one class. I had recently
become enamored with short stories, gluttonously working my way through the works of
Hemingway and Checkhov, and I eagerly jumped at the opportunity. Immediately I began
reading and researching searching for the exactly perfect selection of stories to use for the class.
Connie informed me that it would be her first time teaching the class, and that as such there was
no set curriculum for it (though she did offer me a binder with a curriculum designed by another
teacher to examine and use if I so wished), and we, or rather I, was free to design it as I saw fit.
At first the prospect thrilled me and I was completely confident that I would be able to devise an
amazing unit plan when the time came. Unfortunately the time came, unbeknownst to me, the
very first day of class actually, the day before when we met at the school for the teacher work
day before classes started. Aside from the information I was turning over in my mind from the
research and reading I had recently begun, I was entirely unprepared. I had ideas but nothing
close to being considered a plan of action. That Monday we met at the school and I was
informed I had to prepare a pre-test for the quarter another shock as this meant that I wasnt
designing a unit, but an entire semester-long course. I had anticipated the unit I would be
designing would fall later in the semester and that I would be able to spend time observing
Connie and getting to know the students and their learning styles and the dynamic of the
classroom before I would be required to design and deliver a unit. This experience being
caught so entirely off-guard and unprepared, sent me into somewhat of a panic and I frantically
tried to sketch out the first unit. I hold myself partially to blame for this occurrence I should
have taken more initiative earlier and inquired into exactly when I would be teaching and what
was required of me in terms of things such as pre-tests (something I was fully unaware of),
advanced planning, and so on. But still, I feel that much of the fault falls on Connie for not
bringing these things to my full attention earlier. The simple truth of it is I am still a student and
not only did I have no substantial classroom experience, this is a specialized school with unique
policies and protocols that I should have been made aware of well before I set foot in the
classroom.

The evening before the semester began, I was able to sketch out a rough unit plan and put
together the first few lessons for the week, but it was nothing near the level of planning and
preparedness I would have liked to have in place. Due to this, I found myself constantly behind
on planning and I frequently was up until past midnight finalizing the next days lesson. The
situation persisted and progressed as the semester rolled on and I became aware that I was in fact
designing the class for the entire year. As a student teacher, I am still quite a novice at designing
engaging and diversified lessons and I am slow and cautious in the writing of my formal lesson
plans as, especially, at the start of the semester, I was still very confused by the ambiguity of the
standards and terminology such as learning target and goals vs. objectives. I would often
begin to panic and this took a serious toll on my confidence in my abilities as a teacher.
The situation became even more complicated when my mothers health rapidly declined
almost overnight and I had to leave abruptly to be with her not even a month into my placement.
Two weeks later she would pass. I did my best to stay focused on my teaching, but the ordeal
(exasperated by the fact that I was not able to be with her during her final days) took an
unacknowledged and unrecognized toll on me. I was not able to focus on my work at PCA or for
CSU, and my stress level increased dramatically as I fell further and further behind in my
teaching and academic responsibilities. In hindsight, I probably should have requested a leave of
absence from CSU and resumed my student teaching in the fall when I could better focus my
time and energies towards it. But at the time I truly believed I could deal with the loss and fulfil
my responsibilities simultaneously and so I did my best to persevere. While I am sure that I
continued to have some successes in the remaining months, I fully recognize that they were
largely outweighed by numerous shortcomings on my part. I fell into a routine of unengaging
lecture-style lessons, and more than once I found myself grossly unprepared for class. The
problems were compounded when Connie turned over full-reign of all the class to me and I was
required to fulfill all the duties of a full-time teacher. I fell behind on maintaining class
blackboard pages and entering grades (of which I was not made aware that the school requires
two graded assignments each week as condition of many of the students probation) and instead
of helping me or advising me with managing and budgeting my time and energy, I was sent
emails telling me that I need to stay on top of these things. What has begun as a wonderful
student teaching placement rapidly became one of the most stressful and taxing situations of my
life.

At the same time, once I took the lead for all the classes, student discipline became a real
issue. Students became disruptive and were consistently on their phones, talking, listening to
music, or otherwise not engaged and focused on the lesson or activity at hand. The strange thing
was that nothing had really changed I enforced the same polices and expectations in the same
manner and to the same degree I had observed from my cooperating teacher, but for some reason
I was constantly being addressed on my classroom management practices. Again, no advice or
assistance was offered and it was simply pointed out that it was a problem. Perhaps I should
have spoken up and advocated for myself and asked for suggestions and the help I needed, but as
I was following in the example that had been set for me, I had a difficult time identifying exactly
how to go about changing policies and expectations that were established well before I arrived. I
realize now that from day-one I should have come into that room prepared with my own written
set of classroom policies and expectations, issued them immediately, and enforced them
consistently without fail. I was wrong to assume I could simply slide in and operate the
classroom under someone elses expectations. I should have worked with Connie early on before
the start of the semester and developed a unified set of policies and expectations.
On that same note I deeply regret not working with Connie before the semester to
develop a course of action for all the classes where we would both be entirely clear on the
direction and sequencing of the classes. Although Connie had outlined a basic agenda, I did not
know all the details that are necessary for me to be able to function competently and confidently.
We never discussed specific procedural aspects of delivering lessons and I consistently seemed to
fall short in my instructional practices as a result. Again, I should have advocated for myself and
requested the information I needed to be the quality of teacher I can and desire to be. I know
now fully the level of planning and attention to detail that need to be in place for me do my job
to the degree of perfection I wish to attain in my professional life. It was a strenuous mistake,
but one that I have learned from and will not be soon to repeat.
All things considered, despite the fact that the semester did not go as smoothly for me as I
would have liked in regards to my instruction and my personal academics, I would not have
wanted to be in any other setting for my student teaching. Although I stumbled markedly over
the semester, what I will ultimately take away from this experience couldnt have been achieved
in any other setting. Foremost, I regard my time with the students at PCA to be one of the most
valuable and life-changing I have ever experienced. Grades and observations aside, it has been
the students who have helped me see the potential I have as a teacher, and it is the relationships I

have built with them that have and continue to provide me the encouragement to know that I am
indeed on the right path. Working with those amazing young men and women will undoubtedly
be the greatest reward I will receive from this experience. It is said that what doesnt kill us
makes us stronger, and that while we revel in our successes, we learn and grow from our failures.
While I am hesitant to consider any of my time at PCA as constituting a true failure, I most
certainly have had my share of slips and falls this semester, and from each one I have learned a
valuable lesson about what it takes to be a teacher, and more importantly, what it will take for me
to be the teacher I want to and know I can be. Although life seems to have thrown the works at
me in these last few months, I know I will always look back on this experience with deep
fondness and respect. PCA and the students who work and learn within its walls have forever
cemented themselves in my life. Student teaching at PCA has taught me much about teaching,
students, policies, as well as myself, but it hasnt taught me everything and as I consider that I
cant help but smile for that means I am still in the game still growing and learning, failing and
succeeding, seekingand I think that being able to not only recognize and accept but indeed
welcome these things is critical trait for an educator to have, for to be a life-long teacher, first it
requires that one be a life-long learner.