Professional Learning

Jessica Ozimek: A View on Teacher Preparation

September 1, 2001

Jessica Ozimek, a graduate student at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, shares insights about learning to teach.

1. What have you learned by being in the classroom?

It looks so easy until you go in there and do it, and then you're like, "Whoa! This is so hard!" I mean, hours go into getting ready for a lesson. I never knew some teachers spent that amount of time.

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2. What is the value of plentiful classroom experience before you get a class of your own?

It's great to theorize and talk about things to do, but getting out there and doing it is a whole other thing. So, I think now for me, I'm just getting my feet wet; I'm getting out there and learning different things, like when a student responds with a question or an answer, how do I develop and ask the right questions to make him think on a higher level -- not just have one-word answers?

Eventually, I think I'd like to get to the point where I'm combining those theories and things that we talk about in class and really trying to implement them. And I don't think I'm at the stage right now where I can do that.

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3. Why is field experience so important?

Anything in life, you learn from your mistakes. Getting out there and doing it is the best way to learn. There's only so much a textbook can teach you. That's just a golden rule in life, I think, so just getting out there and jumping into it is great. It kind of sets you up to make you think about things you want to do, things you want to try, things you never even thought about. It's a really great experience. I definitely wouldn't go in and start teaching without having this experience first. It just makes you a better teacher.

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4. What do you do when things don't go well in the classroom?

There are obviously days when things don't go as well, but then you say to yourself, "Okay, this is what I need to work on." And at least you're finding out what you need to work on instead of just going in there cold turkey when you get a teaching job and having to figure it all out then. It's nice to get a little preview.

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5. What do you learn by your mistakes?

When I taught the Cold War -- the first class -- I personally thought I totally bombed. So now I have this experience of bombing -- before I'm an actual teacher and a principal is watching me. I can build on that experience and understand what not to do next time.

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6. You are in the Technology Infusion Project -- TIP. What is your and other teacher candidates' roles in the TIP program?

Our goal was to get placed with a teacher and then to come in and teach some lessons, get experience in the classroom, and then try to implement technology where we could.

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7. You have been placed with world history teacher Julie Howerton. Who benefits in such a program?

It's definitely an exchange, and it's good, too, because I get her feedback. I ask her, "What did you think about this?" "What could I have changed?" "What did you like?" "What did you dislike?" It's really good to get that kind of feedback.

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