What Teaching Programs Don't Teach You

my classroom mantra

I loved this post from The Art of Ed, that discusses what undergraduate art education programs generally lack. I agree that many of the concepts, like classroom management, organization, and advocacy for your program, are essential and primarily absent from teacher ed programs, and there's a reason why - they are learned through practice. Perhaps I'm old-school, but I think there are some things you just have to learn through doing, making a mess of mistakes, and moving forward.

As time goes by, my respect and gratitude for the amazing professors and classmates I had in the Art Education program at Penn State grows. When I left as a new graduate, about 10 years ago, I recall feeling energized and confident. Thankfully, that confidence hasn't wavered and I've always felt prepared for whatever ridiculous situation my classrooms have thrown my way. Teaching fifty eighth graders how to paint a still-life at the same time? Sure. Attempting stop-motion animation with kindergarten? Why not! Putting on a Kabuki play with first graders in full kumadori makeup? Sounds like an adventure! Did all of these projects go perfectly? Nope. It was through the process, especially the hiccups along the way, that I learned how to wrangle and finagle and make things work, even under some serious stress. 

The majority of my confidence stems from being unafraid of failure. I take more risks when I'm not concerned about falling on my face, and the students reap the rewards of those risks with more exciting, engaging lessons. The side benefit is that I'm also excited and engaged. Being safe is rarely rewarding and doing the same lessons year after year would most certainly leave me burned out.  

What teaching programs must do is provide experiences for their proto-teachers to get on that limb and go out so far that they fall off a few times! They should make as many mistakes as they possibly can! It's exhilarating, it's educational, and it makes for one hell of a confident teacher.