Tuesday, January 21, 2014
"Any Advice?": Part 5
The past week or so, I've written, on and off, in response to a question from a former student who's beginning his student-teaching experience. I wrote a bit about my own student teaching back in the winter of 1966; I wrote some about my experiences supervising student teachers when I had my own classroom later on.
But I forgot some other experiences I had during the 1978-1979 academic year. In the spring of 1978, Joyce and I (we had both just finished our Ph.D.'s) had left Ohio and moved to Lake Forest, IL (just north of Chicago), where we both taught at Lake Forest College--a school a lot like Hiram College (my alma mater), a small liberal arts school with history dating to the mid-nineteenth century. Hiram (1850), founded by the Disciples of Christ; Lake Forest (1857), by the Presbyterians. We lived in a grand old faculty house (brick--with a library!) right at the edge of the campus. Joyce was teaching in the English Department; I was chair of the Education Department--and, lest you think the position was too grand, I was the only full-time member of the department! The campus was so close we could--and did--walk to our classes.
Our son, Steve, was in first grade that year, and we had a crisis when we had to remove him from the local public school (he had a beast of a teacher, I'm afraid--and I am not exaggerating) and enrolled him in Lake Forest Country Day School, where he flourished and quickly recovered from the effects of Ms. Beast. While our savings account hurried south.
At Lake Forest, basically, I had turned into my father. He had chaired the Division of Education at Hiram College--had taught teacher-training courses--had supervised student teachers. Now I was doing the same things at Lake Forest. I knew in a matter of weeks, by the way, that I'd made a mistake, leaving Harmon School. I liked Lake Forest--college and community--and we made some lifelong friends there--but I hated my job. I found it dreary to be talking/teaching about ways to work with youngsters; it was far more fun to actually do it. And so by October of 1978 I was already looking to get out of there, to return to Ohio, to Harmon Middle School, if possible (it wasn't--no openings--did not get back there till the fall of 1982; I taught at Western Reserve Academy for two years, at Kent State, part-time, for a year, before I returned to Harmon, where I stayed until my retirement in January 1997).
I tried to be a good supervisor for my student teachers, who were scattered all over the North Shore in a variety of situations--from Montessori schools to city schools to rural ones--a little bit of everything. I tried to make my visits as non-threatening as possible, to make them as frequently as possible, to offer as much positive feedback as possible, to be as useful as possible. Fortunately, I didn't have any problems to speak of. The young educators were trying hard, were generally succeeding. None of them had problems with their critic teachers--or with their classes (nothing beyond the ordinary, that is). I wrote detailed observations each time I visited, had conferences with the students to go over my thoughts--and to find out, privately with them, how things were really going. In a way, it was the best part of my professional life at Lake Forest.
But it couldn't last. I wanted out of there--and out of there we went in the summer of 1979. We moved to Hudson, Ohio, where we would both teach at WRA. Joyce stayed ten years (until our son graduated); I stayed only two--had a hissy fit about my salary--resigned before I even had another job (not the smartest thing I've ever done)--worked part-time for a year (that was profitable)--finally landed back at Harmon in the fall of 1982, where I'd yearned to be since we'd left Ohio in 1978.
NEXT TIME: So what advice would I give young people entering teaching today?