From a Cooperating Teacher to a Friend
As the Thanksgiving season is quickly approaching, I have been reflecting back on and thanking the people who have helped me and have shaped me into the person I am today. These include my family members, my best friends and even some teachers I’ve had. I know I would not be the same person I am today without many of these people. One person in particular who has helped me is my friend Dawn.
I first met Dawn when I placed in her classroom for my first early childhood practicum in college. I was very nervous about doing this practicum because I had never worked in a child care center outside of my required volunteer hours and had no idea what to expect from the experience. I remember the first day I went to the center to meet Dawn. I was expecting her to be a 30 to 40 year old woman who had been in the early childhood field for years. However, God had other plans.
The director of the center walked me down to Dawn’s classroom and introduced me to a much younger woman who looked like she could be about 21. I couldn’t believe it. This very young woman was going to be my cooperating teacher? I was shocked at first but happy that she was so young. We then sat at a table in the hallway and scheduled days and times to work each week and exchanged contact info. Dawn seemed so friendly and nice and I knew right away that she would be a great cooperating teacher.
The first week I was working in Dawn’s classroom I was very nervous and struggled with my communication skills. My lack of self confidence also made me struggle earlier in the semester. However, Dawn believed in me and wasn’t judgmental towards my communication skills. Instead she told me, “Colleen, I want nothing more than to see you succeed.” Hearing her say this boosted my self confidence and knowing that Dawn wanted to see me succeed made it easier for me ask her questions and communicate with her my concerns. I always felt comfortable talking to Dawn and knew I would never be judged whenever I walked into her classroom.
At the end of each week, Dawn and I would sit down together during nap time and discuss what I did in the classroom that week and how I could improve. Dawn was always very clear on what she wanted to see from me in the classroom each week. I always felt like I knew what I was supposed to be doing and I never felt ashamed or embarrassed when I made a mistake. I knew that Dawn would point it out to me in our next meeting and that she would tell me what I needed to do instead rather than criticize me for making the mistake. We would also discuss the times when my professor would come out to observe me and even look over the observation rubric together. Dawn would also observe me herself before my professor came. This helped me see where I was making progress before my observation and what I still needed to work on.
One observation in particular I remember was my third one. My assignment was to come up with an activity to do with the children and my professor would observe me doing the plan activity. My activity was a play dough art project. I gave each child a container of play dough and told them they could make whatever they wanted. I also gave them materials such as beads and jewels for their sculptures. I was very nervous about this observation because I had received low scores on my first two observations and feared that I wouldn’t do well again. However, before my professor came out to observe me, Dawn put a lot of effort into helping me prepare for this activity. She helped me come up with a way to get the children’s attention before the activity and even gave me scenarios such as, “What if Lily was dumping jewels on the floor” or “What if Aaron threw play dough” and asked me how I would react. Discussing these scenarios and what to say ahead of time made me feel more confident and comfortable with my activity.
The day of the observation, I came prepared with all the materials I needed for the sculptures as well as the pictures of real sculptures I was going to show the children before they made their own. Even though, I was prepared, I still felt nervous and was worried about getting another low score. However, Dawn helped me to relax more by telling me, “Colleen, you got this! You are going to rock this observation, I know you can do it!” Dawn’s encouragement made me feel more confident in myself and I felt ready to do my activity. When my professor arrived, I began showing the children the sculptures and then I took them over to the table to make their own. The activity went pretty smoothly and I tried to walk around and talk to the children about their sculptures as much as I could.
When my professor was finished observing me, she took me out in the hallway to discuss how the observation went. As she was talking to me, I glanced at the bottom of my observation rubric and saw my score, which was a B. I was very excited because this was a big improvement from my last two scores. I couldn’t wait to go back to the classroom and tell Dawn the good news. When my professor finished talking to me, I took my observation rubric and went back into the classroom. Dawn was reading to the children and without even looking up she asked me, “How did it go?” I just smiled and showed her my rubric. Dawn’s face lit up the minute she saw my score and she said, “Oh my goodness, I knew you could do it!” and gave me a high five twice. I think Dawn was even more excited about my grade than I was. She kept telling me how proud she was of me and when the director walked by as we were getting ready for lunch, Dawn told her, “Colleen got a B!” The director was really happy for me as well. I appreciated her support as well.
Later in the semester, I was getting ready to sign up for student teaching and was once again very nervous about it. I was anxious about having to be more in charge of a class and how many activities I would have to plan. But this did not stop Dawn from having confidence in me. She helped me prepare for student teaching by having me take over circle time and lead the children in their usual songs and choosing jobs for the week. Dawn also taped me doing circle time on her phone and we would watch the videos during our weekly meetings and determine what leadership skills I was doing well with and what I still needed practice on. This gave me a head start on my leadership skills and prepared me for taking over the class in student teaching. Although helping me prepare for student teaching was not something Dawn was required to do as a cooperating teacher, she did it anyways because she wanted to see me succeed.
By the end of the semester, I couldn’t believe how close Dawn and I had become. I no longer thought of her as a cooperating teacher, Dawn had become my friend. Dawn and I are still great friends today and she continued to help me after I finished my practicum in her classroom. The next semester, I was struggling in student teaching, felt like my cooperating teacher wasn’t being helpful and was worried that I wouldn’t pass the class and graduate. I talked to Dawn about my fears and she gave me good advice on how to handle my cooperating teacher and told me she still had confidence that I could do it. This made me feel so much better. Later that semester, Dawn talked to the director of the child care center and they decided to offer me a job there for after graduation. I was ecstatic but had to get my priorities straight and graduate before starting that job. I worked hard and was able to pass student teaching and graduate. Although the job I was previously offered didn’t work out, being offered the job really gave my confidence a boost and gave me a reason to work even harder in student teaching and reach my goal of graduating in December. If not for Dawn, I’m not sure I would have passed that class and I’m constantly reminded of that every time I look at my diploma.
In conclusion, Dawn has helped me become the person I am today and has gone way beyond what I expected of a cooperating teacher. Her confidence in me and positive feedback really helped me grow as a teacher and a person. I have now become a lot more confident in myself and believe in myself the way Dawn believes in me. Dawn has been such a positive influence in my life and an amazing friend. Being placed in her classroom was a blessing and I’ll never forget how much she has helped me.