By Zoe Thatcher
“Mrs. Thatcher, are we detectives?”
Never mind that itʼs Miss. I gave up on that one a long time ago. Fourth graders just donʼt seem to understand the difference. Theyʼre more interested in things like bracelets constructed from mini rubber bands, Frozen, time to write on the Smartboard, and, in my case, just who did steal the jewels.
Over the course of the semester, Iʼve had the opportunity to become a part of their world through Junior Practicum (aka, the semester-long job interview for all junior education majors, during which you become the personal servant of the classroom teacher). Then for two weeks in April, you get to teach a unit to the students.
I taught math class; area, perimeter, and volume were all rolled into an ongoing robbery mystery. The students absolutely loved it.
They sneaked around like spies during lunch, surreptitiously tried measuring teachersʼ feet for evidence, and tried to convince me that the thief must be
among us. It wasnʼt long before they presented me with a list of possible suspects, including the classroom teacher, the counselor, and the principal! Reasons why included
everything from logic and math to “Because he is acting sispishis.”
Practicum takes time to get used to, but it definitely confirms or negates your choice of major! Student teaching is one of the most exhausting, exhilarating, stretching, dizzying experiences known to mankind. Lesson plans get scrapped, the direction of your lesson changes on the fly, some student always manages to miss instruction, and it sometimes feels like the tooth fairy must be going bankrupt off your class alone!
But in the midst of the confusion and newness of it all, there are wonders beyond price.
There are so many fantastic discussions, moments of student brilliance, unexpected success of new strategies, and hugs and high fives.
There are the failing students who get into your unit and become active participants with plenty of great answers and general excitement as they gain comprehension. And nothing beats being told, “I learned so much, Miss Thatcher! Iʼm so good at math now. Math class is my favorite class.”
Thatʼs enough to make your heart melt.
No class is perfect– and mine was far from it! But that didnʼt matter.
At some point in the semester, I realized that all of them had a place in my heart that will never be removed. I appreciate their hard work, excitement, and dreams. True, Trevorʼs greatest aspiration at the moment is to scare every female within twenty miles with his fake can of worms. But perhaps someday that will change.
Every day I can see the future unfold for these students. I have discussions with Sean about the Irish uprising of 1972 (during which he asks if the death rate was so high because the Protestants used guns and the Catholics used crosses) that reveal keen insight into human nature.
Andrew wants to know my opinion on gene fusion (specifically of dinosaurs and humans) and cloning. Simone wants to know if the Amazon river is found in Africa (because she already looked in China and Antarctica).
They have so many questions, so many things they want to know about a big world. And that is why I want to teach. I want to help them find the answers, to be critical
thinkers. I want their curiosity to stretch to worlds unknown.
The answers that they discover will shape the path they take. I want for them to understand how to ask the right questions and locate the true answers.
Yes, I want my students to be detectives for life.