Graduation Season, Part 2: Lessons from Recent Graduates

06/13/2017

It's summer time!

For those graduating from a teacher prep program, now is a great time to reflect on the past four years. And for me, it's a great time to collect and share the wisdom and experience of these new grads with the next generation of teacher preparation students.

I've interviewed four members of the National Council on Teacher Quality's (NCTQ) Teacher Candidate Advisory Group (TCAG). TCAG was created to give future teachers the opportunity to interact with a selection of top teacher candidates from around the country, learn about ground-breaking research in the teacher preparation field, and advocate for improvements in teacher preparation.

I asked them about choosing a teacher preparation program, preparing for the first semester, engaging with professors, and excelling academically in college.

Choosing the right teacher preparation program can make all the difference in how your first teaching years go. You should, of course, start with our analyses here at Path to Teach.

However, one common refrain for all of the interviewees was the importance of balancing theory and practice, with classroom experiences coming early in their preparation prioritized by all. Carolyn Goodill, a recent graduate of the University of Dayton's School of Education, conveyed that potential teacher preparation students should "know [at what stage] students are given a field placement." Carolyn chose the University of Dayton because she knew she would be placed in the field during her freshman year.

Once students choose the right teacher preparation program, it's time to prepare for your the semester. Moving to a new city, meeting new friends, and getting to know new instructors is not always easy. Interviewees stressed the importance of confirming a course schedule and walking through their daily routine before the first day of school-you don't want to get lost! Rebecca Duitsman, a recent graduate of Dallas Baptist University's School of Education, had one regret about her first semester: buying books. Rebecca said she bought all the books on the syllabus but would never do that again, warning: "a lot of the books on the required list were old editions or the professor decided not to use them." So if you can, wait until it21's clear which books you actually need before making your purchases.

Once you get to class, you should be ready to engage with your instructors. The interviewees shared that getting to know a professor's background is important, so how about starting a conversation by asking your professor about his or her research interests? Haydn Lambert, a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana's School of Education, suggests "showing up to office hours and introducing yourself." Haydn continued, "In education we have to understand that we have to put ourselves out there for our students, so recognize you are human and nervous but remember you are going to set yourself up for success."

The right professor can really inspire you to succeed but ultimately, success is up to you. Interviewees recommended that you work in groups, make certain you understand the course objectives, and engage with the instructor, especially for important assignments. They also noted that you should not procrastinate, and work on your ability to juggle several balls simultaneously! Lennon Audrain, a recent graduate of Rio Salado Community College's Elementary Education program transferring to Arizona State University, shared that he used a daily planner, reviewed all class notes and textbook readings, and completed a KWL chart (Know, Want to Know, Learned) during the review sessions.

Keep the lessons and recommendations from Carolyn, Rebecca, Haydn, and Lennon in mind over the coming months, as you plan for and start your teacher prep program. They'll help you be a successful college education student, and ultimately, an effective teacher!

— Curtis Valentine
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