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8/17/2007

Lessons Learned

I did my student teaching in a middle school. Grades 5-8 attended school there. This was done in the mid 90's. My initial student teaching assignment had to be scrapped because of changes made in the schedule of the teacher who was going to supervise me. Kind of at the last minute Patti decided to give me a chance. It was a chance of a lifetime for me.

The school that I did my intern at was accredited. They have a nice building, great staff, and it just feels good to be there. I wish I had been able to work there from day one, but I'm happy where I'm at now. Anyway, Patti was what I would call a seasoned pro. She had taught for over 20 years, and had a lot to offer me.

She welcomed me fully into her room. The first thing she did was found someone to get me a desk too. She put my desk up in the front of the room also. Wow! Did that make me feel great. I had an area to work. She got me my own grade book, and whatever supplies I needed.

Patti's plan was that we were going to teach as a team from day one. Of course I got a chance to teach on my own, but she wanted us to be a team, so that the students knew they could go to either of us for help.

Patti was a strict disciplinarian. If something occurred in class, she handled it immediately. She'd make the student call home if necessary, and explain what they did, and then she'd talk to them afterwards. I thought this was a noble idea. That was the first bit of wisdom. Don't hesitate, if need be, handle things right away...AND be consistent.

Patti and I would talk for the last 10-15 minutes of our prep time every day. We wouldn't necessarily talk about school every time. We'd talk about life, family, and things going on outside. I enjoyed this time with her. We really developed a bond during the semester I was there. I could just feel the connection, and I absorbed what I could.

Another bit of wisdom that Patti instilled in me was "don't procrastinate." If you have something to do, get it done. Don't put it off, because you'll never get your best work out of you if you have a good idea and then let it sit on the back burner stewing. Since then, at least in regard to work, I've done things right away. It has made a difference.

The weeks flew by during my student teaching. I was involved in all areas of her classroom. I was put in charge of teaching her math class early into the year. What a valuable learning experience for me. It enabled me to learn myself what it took to teach.

I was inspired by Patti. She boosted me up every day, and let me know how I was doing. If I needed correction, she'd do it, and explain why, and how to fix it. She also gave me some more crucial advice. Try not to take anything home with you. What she meant was, mentally, enjoy my evenings, and try not to let little things from school sit in my mind. Enjoy, experience, and life will open up doorways.

The semester was drawing to an end. Patti kind of talked me into accepting the invitation to speak at the teaching department's banquet. I eventually did, and still have the notes from the speech. I can see now that she helped me out in saying what I said that day, by what she showed me over those few months. I probably wouldn't have accepted the invite without her coaxing, but I'm glad I did it.

Patti organized a big party on my last day. She had all the students make cards, arranged for a cake, flowers, and a lot of well-wishing. She told me that she was skeptical about having another student teacher, but that I made it well worth it. She told me that I was far and beyond the best she's had, or seen. That made me burst with pride. It was a great day. I was excited to be getting my degree, and now I could at least substitute teach and begin my career.

Seven months later I interviewed for a job where I currently am teaching and got the job. I called home and told my parents the good news. The next person I called was Patti. She was very happy for me, and was surprised I called. I told her that she was the second person I called, and this touched her. I thanked her again for everything.

- - - - - - -

That fall Patti's cancer came back strong, and she wasn't able to teach. The following spring of 1998 Patti passed away.

I miss her very much, but part of her is still with me, every day when I walk into the classroom. I can still picture her smile, "masked" from the students. I remember her saying before school began that fall... "You've got to ride the broomstick for the first marking period" "They'll like you anyway, but you need to set the tone first"

I agree... it works better that way.

I also remember those bits of advice she gave me during our prep when we'd sit down and chat.
"Be consistent"
"Don't procrastinate"
"Don't take your work home with you."

I'll always remember those things, among the other wonderful lessons I learned during my student teaching from Patti DeVold. Thank you- so much!

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