Meet Rachel Elder, Elementary Education Alumna, and current third-grade teacher from Southern California. One of the best things about Rachel is her dedication to teaching and how she perseveres through the challenges of teaching. So, let's dive in and see what she has to share about preparing to be an elementary educator!
One of the biggest things that Rachel has to share with future educators is "you have to love it [teaching] and have a purpose for being in the classroom." Teaching is not easy, but it is possible with a passion for what you do. Rachel shared her perspective of teaching in a very honest and heartfelt light. Here's what she had to say:
"[For a] first-year teacher, you work a lot of hours without pay. [You're] at the school by 7 A.M., kids are there 9-3:30 A.M. and you stay till about 6 P.M. You never feel caught up or like you have enough to fill the day. [However], with each year you gradually lessen your hours and feel that you have the hang of the curriculum and daily schedule. Your management improves."
"Now that I am in my 3rd year teaching and 2nd year in 3rd grade, I get here at 8:00 A.M. and prep for an hour. The kids come at 9:00 A.M. and I constantly tell them to pull their masks up. We start with quiet morning work, then math. Then we have language, blessed lunch, and read aloud. After that, we do writing and then switch between social studies and science. We practice lining up, not using pencils that are too small, and I say "put your name on your paper" a lot of times. We work on communicating with words rather than by throwing dirt clods, tugging hair, or stomping on feet. Every day requires serious clean-up because the floor is covered. It smells like glue and grass and you are tired."
"Some days it was such a day that you just stare at the wall. But you remembered how you laughed and comforted someone who was crying, how you did conflict resolution, and had a breakthrough with a low student. And how someone wrote you a kind note and thanked you when you tied wet shoelaces. And you smile because it was a great day and you would do it again and again."
From speaking with Rachel, we learned that there are many pros and cons to being an undergraduate student studying education. You do have assignments and lessons that are fascinating and prepare you to teach, but there is a huge learning curve that comes with being in the classroom. She recommends getting in the classrooms/schools as early as possible to get experience and make sure this is truly what you love and want to do.
Overall, amidst the amount of learning that comes with being a teacher, there is great joy in this job. Rachel says that her favorite part of this career is the kids. She said, "They are innocent, sweet, funny, and so loving... if you love the kids and you love helping them, then the other [difficult] parts are worth going through. Advocating for the children, parents, families, and the community is so enriching, rewarding, and meaningful."