First Day of School: Were You Ever More Frightened
Then the school bell rang. And when Katie looked up from her desk, she locked eyes with her students and said, "Hello, I'm Miss Simet, your teacher."
Since she was 5 years old, Katie had practiced for this moment. Of course, back then, her "students" were stuffed animals, lined up neatly in front of her chalkboard and eager to learn their ABC's. Needless to say, they loved their teacher and their grasp of mathematics was, frankly, beyond belief. But now, it was real.
Advice for incoming Ed majors: Learn everything you can during your field experiences. "Soak it all up. You're in so many classes that at times, it can seem so overwhelming, but it can be a great way to get new ideas."
What she loved about the College of Ed: "Marquette professors are amazing at giving you support to grow as a teacher. Teaching isn't something you can learn out of books; it's something you have to learn in the field. Marquette gives you the perfect amount of support and independence."
What surprised her about the working world: "It's much harder with a larger class!" she says with a laugh. (She worked with only a handful of students at the Hartman Center.)Post-graduation: "You don't have your professors there anymore, but you develop relationships with staff members, and you keep up with former classmates. We'll call each other up and say, ‘How are you setting up your room? What will your rules be?'"
Memorable moment: "I had to discipline a kid and do the tough-love-follow-the-rules-or-face-the-consequences thing. And the next day, the first thing he did was give me a hug. And that just meant so much to me. … I was somehow able to balance for this kid the love and discipline he needs."
Favorite Marquette memory: The camaraderie among education majors, especially when everyone reported back after their field experiences. "I could walk in and say, ‘I totally bombed this lesson and these kids walked all over me,' and get 25 creative solutions on how to make it better."
She had worked for this since coming to Marquette, when she'd peeked in the window of the Hartman Literacy and Learning Center on campus and began a countdown.
She spent days preparing her classroom, cutting out alphabet letters, coloring and hanging pictures, writing lesson plans and picking out the right books. Some of her students, she knew, had never had a book of their own.
"This was the beginning of my education becoming real," Katie says, remembering those first scary minutes. "I was totally overwhelmed and excited to be responsible for a group of children. I tested the things I'd learned in class, found out what worked and what didn't and made adjustments. That's a remarkable part about this experience. Even before I started student-teaching, I had the opportunity to learn from a class that was all my own."
At the Hartman Literacy and Learning Center, Marquette's undergraduate teachers-in-training tutor children from Milwaukee's inner-city schools on reading comprehension.
It got rowdy sometimes, but Katie found the energy invigorating. There were frustrating moments, too. "Sometimes I felt like we weren't making any progress," Katie recalls. "Then, I'd look back on my students' work from earlier in the semester. When we read, we circle the words they get wrong. At first, there were 100 circles. Then there were 50. By the end of the semester, there were five circles. That's when I knew I was getting through."
Katie says the experience proved she was born to teach. "My heart pulls me toward an urban classroom and working with children who are struggling to read. Teaching at the Hartman Center gave life to what I had learned in lectures. It brought it all together for me and helped me realize the difference I can make in the lives of children."