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Chuck Brooks' column: Student teacher inspires introspection

Let me be the first person to officially welcome you to February! I’m nearly certain I can claim that role since who in their right mind is going to welcome you to ANY month? Thus, I’ll rest comfortably knowing I’m the first to greet you in such a manner.

Let me also share with you the news of an addition to my world of teaching. I have a student teacher. Actually, I’m sharing him with another English teacher. He’s with me in the morning for my first two classes of the day, which happen to be English 10 B classes. In the afternoon, he moves down the hall to experience my colleague’s three English Nine B classes. Consequently, he’s now in full swing with teaching five class periods a day.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a student teacher in my room. The last time I did, however, I believe I was less reflective in my career than I am these days. Watching him in front of the room while I sit at my desk, off to the side, is already making for an interesting experience for me.

His father started teaching at RHS when I began here. His dad was a great teacher and a really good guy. He is still a good guy, but he retired about two years ago. His son has tasted life more than the normal student teacher we generally see. He’s nearing 30. He’s married. He’s experienced younger kids in the classroom and has spent several years teaching in South Korea. He’s far more seasoned as he enters his student teaching experience here than I was in mine.

I’ve never told you about my student teaching experience. It happened at Rice Lake High School in Rice Lake, Wisc. It was a positive experience for me. Ironically, the teacher I was working with was also in her final months of her career. My first day there, I arrived late in the day because I had been hunting for a place to live while I taught there that winter. I met her and told her I was excited to move into the experience. She was pleased and told me what the curriculum was and that I could start the next day. And I never saw her back in her classroom again. I was also working with a younger teacher for my minor, which was speech. That would be the exact opposite of my English experience. That teacher was into the supervision aspect of what I was doing. She was a fun and popular person at her school.

I ended up living on the second floor of an elderly couple’s home. It was this narrow, and I mean NARROW, hallway that led to two rooms: the bathroom with only a tub and a little room that served as my living room, kitchen, dining room and bedroom. I wondered how I’d survive such living conditions, but it’s amazing what we can do for a short period of time. Both husband and wife below couldn’t have been sweeter people. That helped me a ton adjusting to this experience.

As I watch my student teacher teach, his energy level is refreshing. It will serve him well in his teaching, but it exhausts me! I have that energy level for our pep fests here, but I think I’ve mellowed in the classroom over time. If I hadn’t, I’m not sure I would have lasted 33 years. Don’t get me wrong. High-octane energy is a good thing. In some respects, I’m jealous. The logic of the situation, however, tells me it’s the natural progression. Although, I have to admit, we have one teacher who is retirement material, but she still teaches up a storm in the classroom. Rarely do I walk by her room when she’s not fully engaged in lecturing and doing so with energy that shames me. She has my utmost admiration.

Our student teacher will do well while he’s with us, and he’ll get scooped up quickly enough by some school. As I watch him interact with the kids, I can’t help but wonder where his educational journey will take him. I am sure, like all of us, he’ll have huge highs and lousy lows. If he’s lucky, he’ll end up in a community like the one in which I’ve spent my career. One never knows, but I certainly got lucky.

I wanted to take this opportunity to mark the passing of another RHS family member who made our school a special place to work years ago. She was the secretary for our disciplinarian principal. The woman had a heart that was warm and inviting. She retired earlier in my career, but I will always smile when I think of her. Good night, Marlys. Thanks for brightening our world.