Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Jillian (Messner) Kitts

Advice for Future Teachers from Someone Who's Been There…
By Jillian (Messner) Kitts, Integrated Language Arts Major

Stressed about student teaching? Not sure where your future in education is heading after graduation? Well, let me tell you about my experience.

During my very first lesson as a student teacher at Wooster High School, I had the privilege of working with two senior British Literature classes. The first lesson I taught was how to write a Shakespearean sonnet. For homework, the students had to write a sonnet of their own about anything they wanted.

To my surprise, when I collected the sonnets the next day in class, three senior boys had written me love sonnets. My all-time favorite sonnet included a line about how this particular senior boy had been “Messner-ized” by me. I then proceeded to congratulate this student on his clever pun.

For some student teachers, this may have been an embarrassing moment. But for me, I couldn’t help but find it anything other than comical. There is definitely a fine line between the student/teacher relationship. This line is even trickier when a teacher is young and just starting his or her career. However, the key here is to humor the students for a brief moment and then move on with your lesson.

This is something I learned during my very first lesson as a student teacher. I know it seems like student teaching is the most intimidating aspect of the impending future. But in all honesty, it is what you make it. If you go into student teaching with a terrified outlook, scrutinizing over your every lesson plan, then yes, your students will be able to tell, and they will pick on you. But, if you learn to enter into teaching with an open and flexible mind, then you will find that you learn just as much as your students.

In terms of my experiences at AU, I learned that teachers serve as bridges for their students. Nikos Kazantzakis once said that “true teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”

By acting as this metaphorical bridge, my AU professors gave me the scaffolding I needed to progress until I could take the next step on my own. However, taking that next step meant that I had to reach out to my professors outside of class.

Do not be afraid to approach your professors before or after class. Email them, call them, stop by their office, utilize them in any way you can. Ask them to proofread your papers, write you a letter of recommendation, recommend possible graduate schools, or share about their own personal experiences. Overall, professors are there to help you whether it’s in relation to your education or your future career.

In terms of my job search process, I was blessed enough to land a teaching position three weeks after graduation. I attribute my success to extensive networking with any possible connection I could find within my teaching district. While not everyone will find a job three weeks after graduation, you have to be proactive in your job search. It’s often more about who you know rather than what you know. In addition to networking, it’s important to make sure you’re well prepared for the interview.

During my time at AU, I found many helpful resources provided by the Career Center that benefitted me in my interview. I attended a presentation on how to conduct oneself in an interview. During this presentation, I took extensive notes which I referred back to when I prepared for my teaching interview. After reviewing these notes, I felt more confident and prepared to answer any and every question my interviewers threw at me.

 Additionally, I did a mental recap of all the pertinent classes I took throughout my time at AU. I tried to pick out at least one or two important aspects of each class that I could relay in an interview. These mental bullet points proved to be a huge help in the interview process.
So in closing, here’s my advice: be a bridge for your students; act as a scaffold until they are ready to leave the nest and build bridges of their own. And lastly, network, network, network! It will land you a job in the end!