This is a description of the four stages of development that Teacher Candidates are likely to experience during Supervised Teaching. These stages, derived from an analysis of students’ logs, are probably typical of the life of the Teacher Candidate. This is not to say that all experiences follow each stage exactly, or that each will be equally prominent. However, Teacher Candidates can expect to find at least elements of each stage, perhaps more of some than others, during their supervised teaching assignment.
The first days are no honeymoon. They can be overwhelming, especially because the teacher candidate tries to absorb so much information very quickly. He/she drives himself/herself: to become acquainted with each student, to learn the class routine and procedures, to master the materials the Directing Teacher/Support Provider uses, and to learn his/her teaching techniques. Besides trying to master all of that, the teacher candidate has to make sure that the Directing Teacher/Support Provider likes him/her or at least is on his/her side. Feeling overwhelmed and seeing the Directing Teacher/Support Provider functioning so well and handling everything in stride, the teacher candidate feels awed. “Can I do it?” the teacher candidate asks himself/herself.
Through observation and immersion in class activities, the teacher candidate begins to form a more accurate picture of the class and its teacher. He/she begins to see students as individuals and, at the same time, to gain a sense of the wholeness of the class, a group that operates as a unit. The Directing Teacher/Support Provider is not a name on an assignment sheet anymore but, rather, a real life person. Effective as he/she may be as a teacher, the Directing Teacher/Support Provider is not imbued as superman or superwoman, but simply as an able teacher who, being human and working with humans has to cope with problems. The teacher candidate starts to generate ideas about what she/he would do differently if this were his/her class. She/he now begins to feel part of the class. The class recognizes her/him as a member of the teaching team. The Teacher Candidate, perceiving the Directing Teacher/Support Provider as a person, has feelings that stem from their interaction, feelings like warmth, respect, and anger.
“The chalkboard shuffle and flounder” is also an appropriate title for this stage. The observation period is over and the teacher candidate tries his/her wings. He/she solos! All of the topics and problems discussed so often in the University classes, and fantasized and dreamed about (including an occasional nightmare?) are now real life, here and now, today. Preparation, presentation, timing, movement of students from one activity to another, assisting one group while monitoring the class, discipline, and discipline again -- all these confront the teacher candidate at one time.
In Stage 2, the Teacher Candidate’s morale had risen rapidly over the first stage. In Stage 3, unless he/she is careful, his/her morale can nose dive. If the teacher candidate wants to feel bad about something, there is always something to feel bad about. For example, if he/she compares his/her performance with the Directing Teacher/Support Provider, he/she will surely find himself/herself inferior -- and yet the teacher candidate may fail to attribute his/her inferiority to the differences in their experience. However, he/she need not do that. Each can find instead positive things to take note of, the progress he/she has made, and his/her success each day in coping with something he/she was unable to cope with before.
There are no yardsticks for Teacher Candidates at this point, only feedback from the Directing Teacher/Support Provider and students, which they can reflect upon and learn from. There are three patterns to choose from at this stage: (1) Some feel defeated by the situation, label themselves failures, and give up, (2) Others feel defeated, but place the blame elsewhere, usually on the Directing Teacher/Support Provider and sometimes on the University for having prepared them poorly, or (3) Most Teacher Candidates feel OK about Stage 3, viewing it as just a passing phase, difficult indeed, but one that they will weather successfully, in part by using problem solving skills.
After passing through the storms of Stage 3, the teacher candidate settles down to the job of working with his/her students and, in the process, transforms himself/herself into a teacher. His/her time with the Directing Teacher/Support Provider will be drawing to an end. From here on, whole days are his/hers to plan and execute.
From the weeks of classroom experience the teacher candidate has begun to develop his/her own style and, further, he/she has come to feel “at home” in front of the class. He/she knows there is much more to learn, but he/she accepts the reality that one does not become a master teacher in 18 weeks or 18 months. Above all, now the teacher candidate has much more confidence: When the new school year rolls around and he/she takes over his/her own class as a full-time teacher, he/she will be able to handle the job.