By Randi Williams

Hello future teachers!

First of all, congratulations on choosing to become a teacher. I’m a senior studying Liberal Studies with an option in elementary education, and can definitely identify with all of you who have found a passion for teaching. Education within the college of Liberal Arts is a great field, but you may have noticed that there are little to no classes that allow you to spend time in a classroom unless you’re part of the college of Education also, and to someone who’s passionate about education and children this seems like a real downfall. We though have an alternative great option to give you real work experience and credits at the same time!

Classroom experience is an opportunity for those of us who want to be teachers in the college of Liberal Arts to spend part of our breaks volunteering in a classroom. You are there receiving a genuine full-day teaching experience the entire time your mentor teacher is working with students including before and after school planning. If you choose to do September Experience you’ll even spend a week in the school planning before students arrive. Not only is this a great way to earn some extra credits before our hectic lives at school start again, it can really give you a taste of what it’s like to be a teacher. All’s well and good when we’re learning about it, but spending all day in a classroom with students is an entirely different experience, and one that all potential teachers should have before they decide to spend the rest of their professional lives educating children.

I personally had the opportunity to complete two classroom experiences. September of my junior year at Oregon State I volunteered in a third grade classroom, and September of this year I split my time between a kindergarten and first grade class. I’ve had the opportunity to take some amazing classes throughout my college career, but I undoubtedly learned more from these two experiences than from any professor. Teachers in general are extremely passionate about what they do, and they love to answer questions and give advice to their mentees. Not only that, they are a great resource for the future when you have questions or need a reference. You’ll also be able to interview other professionals working in the school, an experience that will open your eyes to everything and everyone it takes to make a school run smoothly. I for instance talked with an ESL teacher and a reading specialist, who gave me some great insight into the challenges and the potential of students.

Though all of those opportunities to work with school personnel were great, by far the best aspect of classroom experience is working with the students. I was amazed how attached I became to these kids in just four weeks! Spending so much time with your students you quickly get to know each of them very well, which makes their achievements that much more exciting. I would often work with the students who were struggling, and the joy and pride they felt when finally understanding a concept is contagious, moments like those remind you why you want to be a teacher. It was also during my classroom experience this year that I fully realized the potential impact I could have on these children. One afternoon the first grade teacher I was working with stepped out to find a television for the class, and instructed the students to listen while Ms. Williams read a story. The minute those thirty eyes looked to me I realized that to these students I was their teacher, the person completely responsible for what happens in the classroom. A simple moment like that, where you realize the difference you can make in a child’s life, is something you have to experience in the classroom, not from a lecture or textbook.

If I could make one recommendation to students studying education, it would be to complete as many Classroom experiences as you can. Contact the College of Liberal Arts Advising Office in Gilkey 213, 541-737-0561, to get more information about signing up for a classroom experience.  The preparation we receive for teaching at Oregon State is wonderful, but nothing can compare to actually being in the classroom and seeing first hand what your future will be.

One final note, I would encourage any of you interested in teaching in economically disadvantaged school to look into Teach For America, a program that aims to close the achievement gap by placing teachers in these schools. Browse their website to get an idea of their mission and the opportunities they offer to teachers!



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