As students stock up on pens, pencils and the latest fashion trends, their teachers are brushing up lesson plans and re-training themselves in patience.
Most veteran teachers have a back-to-school routine. New teachers, however, are learning everything for the first time and their nerves are in the same tense state as many of their students.
“I’m definitely nervous but I’m excited too,” said Brittany Afong, a senior elementary education major at Tennessee Tech University. “My mom is a pre-K teacher so I’m looking over her stuff and talking to her.”
Afong and Polk Brown are two of dozens of TTU students who will complete student teaching assignments before they get their degrees.
Though both students have been in the classroom for most of their lives, this is the first time they will sit in the big desks in the front of the room. Afong of Oak Ridge, Tenn., will be teaching at either Prescott South Elementary or Middle School while Brown of Kingston, Tenn., will be teaching math at Monterey High School.
It’s not all buying red pens and bulletin board liners. Afong has discovered at the summer camp that clapping works to get her students’ attention, as does telling them what they can do instead of what is not allowed.
“I’m working at a summer camp now so I’m learning different techniques for discipline and working on my patience,” she said.
Brown is focusing on finding activities that will make math interesting and making sure he is prepared to teach things that, in some cases, he has not studied since high school. His last geometry class was more than a decade ago and he spent several nights in the library brushing up on formulas to get a lesson plan ready.
“I think the biggest thing with math, especially, is finding a way to apply it to life,” he said. “I like to have a good time and cut up and laugh in the classroom. I just try to find things to do.”
After they and their fellow student teachers graduate from TTU, Afong and Brown will be certified to teach in Tennessee and both say they hope to have classrooms entirely to themselves soon.
“I really love kids and I want to make a difference and give them the inspiration they need to succeed,” Afong said. “School never came easily to me so my teachers really had to push me. I want to do that for these kids, to tell them, ‘This is what you’re good at, try this.’”