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Section 7: STUDENT TEACHING EXPERIENCE REFLECTION


This semester I returned to the high school that I had graduated from five and a half years
ago. I wanted to return because attending Fort Collins High School was a great experience for
me when I was younger and I wanted to give back to the school that had offered me so much
opportunity. Student teaching has been a memorable experience for a variety of reasons. Most of
the semester was a positive experience and I have learned so much from my cooperating
teachers, as well as the students. There may be things that I would do differently if I could go
back, but overall, student teaching was an amazing experience.
To start, Ill overview some of the things that went well. The most important and most
successful part of student teaching has revolved around the connections that I have been able to
make with students. This is something that I have tried to do since the first day that I stepped foot
in the classroom. It is my belief that if one can create and maintain personal relationships with
students that they can further motivate them to achieve at a higher level. Whenever I would see a
student wearing a t-shirt with a band name or a sports team name, I would try to reach out to
them and attempt to make a connection with them based on their interests. I know which students
play which sports and which students are involved in different clubs. I know which television
shows students watch and I do my best to keep up with current events so that I can be on the
same page as them. I do not make these connections for the pure social implications, but I do so
that when the time comes when a student is struggling with something that I can perhaps give an
example that is relevant to them. From my experience this semester, this is something that has
worked repeatedly when helping struggling students.
I also had the opportunity to help teach Mind Center for the first quarter of school. This is
a new class offered at FCHS that focuses on students that are endangered of not graduating high

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school. These students are typically on the cusp of either passing or failing most classes. The
school has created this class called Mind Center to help bring these endangered students to a
study hall type class where students can get more one on one attention with any of their subjects,
which will help them to pass the rest of their classes. I spent the majority of my time in the class
forging relationships with students who seemed like they needed motivation to come to school.
This was an excellent experience for me because it challenged me to help students that had a
historically bad record in school. These students were difficult to work with, but that is what
made the experience so rewarding. I hope that I have impacted at least a handful of students in
Mind Center and that those students go on to graduate high school.
While I valued all my in-class time, I must admit that coaching soccer every day after
school was my favorite time of the semester. This was my third season coaching at Fort Collins
High School and it was one of the most challenging seasons yet. I co-coached the JV Boys team
and had to organize and run practices daily. All the players that I coached were students at FCHS
and I could learn much more about them by conversing with them outside of school. I probably
made the most meaningful connections with students out on the soccer field. This naturally
happens because I am spending at least two hours every day with this group of players, but I
think the players, as well as myself, learn to loosen up once the final school bell has rung. I could
talk to students about my day and reflect with them on things that happened, and they could do
the same in return. Whenever I would see players in the hall I would stop and talk to them about
soccer, school, or anything else going on in their lives. Even after our JV season had ended, in
which we won our last eight games, I stayed and helped coach the Varsity Boys for three weeks
as they made a great run through the playoffs. In that three weeks, I coached at a more intense
level than I had all season. I made more connections with players I didnt know as well and I

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helped them in any way that I could in that period. I hope to continue to work with the Boys
team in the future and help in any way that I can.
I also had the unique situation of having two mentor teachers for the duration of my
student teaching experience. The first was with Mr. OConnor, in which I co-taught three English
9 FC classes. The second was with Mr. Stephens, in which I helped teach two English 9 classes.
Being able to see two different teachers and two varied styles of teaching everyday was an eyeopening experience. I learned an immense amount from both teachers, and I am very grateful
that the pair of my mentor teachers agreed to splitting my time this semester, because I know it is
an unconventional way of taking on a student teacher.
To begin, Mr. OConnor was an incredibly organized and structured teacher, who also
had the challenge of teaching an English 9 FC class for reading deficient students. He taught me
that having systems in place was the key to running a smooth class. From the beginning, we
agreed to set high expectations for student behavior and student achievement in the class. This is
something that Mr. OConnor has always done with his classes, and throughout the semester I
could see his reasoning convert to direct accomplishment. Most days, students would come to
class and they would know exactly what they were going to be doing, this was mainly due to the
built-in routines of the class, as well as the great previewing that Mr. OConnor always stressed
to relate to students. He believes that if students know what to expect from a class (especially the
struggling students), then they are more likely to come to class and pass because nothing is
catching them off-guard. He also taught me that one of the keys to students success is to assign
points to nearly everything. The logic being that if students receive credit for most of the tasks
they complete, then they know that they must come to class or they will lose points. Logistically
speaking, the difference between passing and failing usually exists within the realm of whether

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students come to class or not. This creates positive life skills for students by teaching them
discipline and responsibility. While I could go on for pages about how Mr. OConnors
methodical planning leads to class time always being utilized, or how his effort to differentiate
for all students is a practiced skill that often goes under-appreciated, the truth of the matter is that
Mr. OConnor has taught me a bountiful amount of classroom management skills, as well as life
skills that I will cherish throughout the rest of my life.
My other mentor teacher is Mr. Stephens, who goes by the name Stevo. Stevo has a
vastly different style of teaching from Mr. OConnor. Stevo has a general plan and an outline for
every unit, though he does not spend as much time with the details of each class period, students
accomplish a lot of work while in class. There is an immense amount of learning that takes place
in Stevos English 9 classes, this is mostly due in part to strong relationships Stevo forms with
students, along with the captivating texts and materials that he chooses to implement into his
lessons. Some of these texts include short stories like The Cask of Amontillado and The Tell-Tale
Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. These are magnificent short stories that offer a lot of psychological
and philosophical questions to students that keep them engaged in class. Stevo also has a style of
teaching that is inviting and comfortable to students. He often tells them hilarious and
captivating stories that function as real-world examples to content we are learning about. He is
light-hearted in many ways, but he does have a fiery-ness to him that often demands the attention
of the class. To elaborate more on this, he has one main rule in the class and that is respect
(respect for teachers, students, and peers). When this rule is broken in any sort of way he is sure
to let students know that they are being disrespectful and rude to those around them and that it
effects the learning environment.

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Beyond the classroom, Stevo is also the head Varsity soccer coach. I played for him while
I was in school. I learned a lot from him as a player and in the past two years I have learned a lot
from him as a coach for FCHS. His mentorship has been a blessing to me and has given me the
vision and clear-mindedness to follow my dreams after I graduate college. Stevo has a tactical
and strategical mind that has taught me to analyze situations that I am confronted with in my life.
Overall, the relationship I have had with him over the years has helped me to become a positive
role model for students and an advocate of the things I am passionate about in life.
My philosophy of teaching changes daily. It is typically altered by small series of events
that I encounter. One instance might be having to deal with students who are trying to fail. I had
one student this semester who would miss school for weeks at times and then would show up and
cause a scene in the middle of class. Part of me wanted to scold her for throwing her life away
and wasting the amazing opportunity she has to experience a free education in the United States,
but then the other part of me knew that her background story was most likely keeping her from
being successful in school. This is the struggle with not only being a teacher, but being a human
being. We often look at each other and evaluate one another based on the current actions that we
are each doing, after all, life is judged by actions, not hidden thoughts or backgrounds. So we
look at one another and we often condemn behavior without trying to understand why one is
behaving a certain way. I am guilty of judging in the same way, though, every interaction I have
with a student continues to grow my patience, understanding, and empathy for who they are as
individuals. In other words, it has taught me to value relationships more. Without relationships
connections are not made, and students, as well as all types of people suffer.
My goals as a long-term educator are still unclear. I want to help educate students in the
future, but I am unsure how to go about it. While teaching high school is one option, I also want

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to pursue my career as a creative writer. I believe that avenue would also allow me to reach
people and hopefully inspire them to do great things with their lives. I am truly undecided about
education as a whole. Part of me understands how important education is to society, but I also
feel that it is undervalued in many ways. Im sure people say this about most professions, but I
believe teachers are underpaid for the volume of work they put in, as well as they high level of
stress teachers are under every day, as they are responsible for the education of at least onehundred students. This is a big responsibility and the trends seem to be showing that teachers are
now being expected to have less planning periods with more classes to teach. Teachers are
struggling to keep their heads above water, both mentally and financially. Colorado is one of the
worst paying states when it comes to teachers, and policies dont look to be changing any time
soon.
Of all the essays I have written throughout college and my English career, this one feels
like the messiest. That is an odd thing to admit, but Ill be honest, it tough to summarize the
entire semester (8 periods a day, five days a week for sixteen weeks) in a single essay. It is
difficult to even organize, but I dont think this is necessarily a negative aspect, because it
matches my experience as a student teacher. I have never undergone a job or class so grueling
and for such an extended period of time. It has tested my will, my strength, and my patience in so
many different ways. As I emerge from student teaching I find myself a new person someone
who has grown for the better. This would not have been possible if not for the mentorship of my
cooperating teachers and the support of my friends and family. I hope that I can use what Ive
learned to positively impact the world around me going forward and I am truly grateful for this
opportunity and experience.

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