By: Savanah Rhine
Student Teaching is like a rollercoaster. It has its ups and downs, but in the end, you wish you could ride it again. This is an experience that will leave you with amazing memories, valuable skills, and experiences you will cherish forever. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I wouldn’t change my experience for anything. An encouraging supervising teacher, supportive cooperating teachers, and healthy student/teacher relationships are the three most important factors to an enjoyable and successful experience.
I am currently student teaching at Chowchilla High School. Chowchilla is a small rural town in the Central Valley with a rich agricultural history and a very involved community. Being placed in this community was surprising and ironic as I learned that my family too has a history that originated in this small town. Starting my experience here was exciting, but slightly nerve-racking. My first day was spent meeting the teachers I would be working with, along with various school staff, and ended with me conquering fears and holding exotic animals, such as a python. This was an amazing opportunity for the students to see me and for me to have the initial interaction.
Supervising teachers are an integral part in being successful. This is the person you go to for any questions or concerns and will end up being your biggest mentor for your teaching career. At my site, I have been lucky enough to work with the one and only, Kassie Dewey. She has been extremely helpful and has opened numerous opportunities for me to learn. My first week here I was able to participate in the top ten field trip. This field trip is planned by the teachers and allows the top ten most involved students to go on local industry tours. We went to Minturn Hulling, an almond hulling plant, as well as Fresno State’s new Ag Science research facility. Kassie provides endless opportunities for me to grow, such as bringing me to Professional Learning Community (PLC) events, conferences where she is the guest speaker, and introducing me to numerous people in the agricultural education world, as well as those in the industry that are very supportive of the program. Alongside these opportunities, she is consistently helping me with lesson plans, classroom management strategies, and provides detailed constructive feedback that I have found to be extremely useful.
Cooperating teachers are also a helpful tool. My advice to any new student teacher is to get to know their cooperating teachers just as well as their supervising teacher. Every teacher plays a unique role in the program and these six months allow you to learn strategies from every angle. Here at Chowchilla High School, there are six agriculture educators; Miss Dewey, Miss Riedel, Mr. Bitter, Mr. Evans, Mrs. Raggio, and Ms. Barney. My responsibilities here at Chowchilla leave me fairly busy on a nightly basis; however, any chance I get I will volunteer to help any of the teachers just to gain as much knowledge as I possibly can. Being involved and getting to know the teachers at my school site has and will allow me to gain skills that I will carry on with me long after I have left Chowchilla. This has given me more contacts that will be willing to help me in any future endeavors I may have and they have already proven to be great acquaintances and friends.
Students are the most interesting and entertaining part of your daily student teaching experience. At my site, I quickly got to know the leadership kids as they are the ones planning every chapter event. As I picked up classes I got to know a whole different group of students. During the last 3 months, I have been able to see students grow and succeed in many ways. Some students in their FFA competitions and some just in simple classroom activities. I have been fortunate to have great students overall. I haven’t had too many behavior issues and I am always excited and surprised to hear what they have to say on a daily basis. My favorite part of the day is when a student comes into the classroom and is excited to share stories about their weekend or outside activities before class starts. This builds a student/teacher relationship that shows them that you care about their outside life and their whole perspective on your class will change for the better. In the FFA aspect of this experience, there is never a dull moment with the students. I have told my students that I will be writing a book of all of the crazy and funny things I have heard during these short six months. At this point, the book is at least seven chapters long. From the “interesting” karaoke sessions during van rides to the random riddles students share, you would never be able to guess the outcome of any trip. These students have made long lasting memories that I will never forget and I hope to continue to see them grow throughout their journey in FFA. For example, having one student pretending to run alongside the van, because she didn’t win her competition or having to explain that the “floating fire” in the field is a torch and isn’t actually moving, because driving in the van makes it seem as if it is moving. I have found that in this experience you need to get the most out of it as possible, this means participating in FFA week dress up days and activities, going to as many meetings/practices/competitions as possible, and even attending other activities like athletics.
My advice to any future student teacher is to stay involved and get to know your teachers and students quickly. These relationships will make or break the experience. Make the most of every opportunity you are given and say yes to as many things as possible. Investing the time now will be essential to the time you spend when you aren’t the student teacher, but the teacher. This experience can be exhausting and stressful when due dates are approaching, but it will also be the most rewarding experience you will ever have!