Cover Story: The Freshman Experience

May 13, 2018
The Freshman Experience

Baylor freshman Jack Meador raised his hand in class. “When I meet my students, do I say I’m ‘Jack’ or I’m ‘Mr. Meador’?” he asked Dr. Sheila Gloer, School of Education instructor for the course “Introduction to Teaching,” a required class known as “1312.”

It was an excellent question, Gloer noted. “You are Mr. Meador,” she answered. “Don’t be too casual with your students; you are a teacher now.”

Baylor students in Gloer’s class were just beginning their path to a Bachelor of Science in Education (BSEd) and teacher certification and were about to meet their first students, middle schoolers at Waco ISD’s Cesar Chavez Middle School. They spent their first six weeks as Baylor students getting prepared through the coursework. They learned about state requirements, assessments, student behavior management and ethics; they practiced making lesson plans and creating learning objectives; and they covered topics ranging from theory to how to lead a classroom discussion. They were introduced to the world of education acronyms ­— TEA, TEKS, STAAR, SPED, LEP. Gloer also modeled the importance of developing rituals for the classroom — such as entrance music and a signal for quieting down the class.

And she advised the students to find their own morning ritual with inspirational music. “You need to find something to boost you up every morning,” she said. “You won’t always feel peppy.”

In the seventh week of class, the students ventured into the Waco community for a dose of real teaching in a local school.

Meador, who is majoring in secondary English, said the experience of early field teaching at Baylor was a quick transition from being a high school student a few months earlier. “You still feel like a kid,” he said.

The Freshman Experience

The 1312 class is the first education course taken by School of Education undergraduates, and it provides both an opportunity for students to confirm their calling to be an educator and also an experience where they begin fulfilling that calling through direct teaching twice a week.

Dr. Susan Schaefer, senior lecturer, who taught two sections for elementary education majors in the fall, said the experience can lead to “goosebump” moments for the blossoming teachers. 
“When you work with a child, and the child learns things and does things that they didn’t know or do before, you realize how remarkable it is to be a teacher,” Schaefer said. “When you teach a child to read, it’s very apparent that you are making a difference.”

Schaefer said she loves to watch the Baylor students move quickly from the mentality of a high school student to that of a future teacher. “I love watching their confidence build,” she said. “The growth and development of freshmen is huge.”
Gloer said she also sees the freshmen change from just trying to get a college degree to thinking about their purpose in life. When students understand their effect on other human beings, they begin to take their degree seriously, she said.

“Later when they are studying about social issues or curriculum development, they don’t just see the assignment,” she said. “They see the human beings that they have worked with before. Many times in upper-level classes, I hear our students refer back to their 1312 experience. They always remember those first kids.”

Gloer added, “As freshmen, they come in ready to light the world on fire, and as teachers, they are very capable of doing that. So it’s an awesome responsibility for us as faculty to keep fueling that fire while they are here.”

Meador said he was “so nervous” about the first days of field teaching, though he felt thoroughly prepared. “At first, I was sort of overwhelmed,” he said. “But once you are teaching a student something, you are not thinking about the TEKS — you are thinking about the student and their understanding and their responses.”

Vanessa Jessurun, an elementary education major in Schaefer’s class, said her first day at J.H. Hines Elementary School was “straight-up scary.” Yes, she had her lesson plans laid out in detail. “But before you are actually in the school, you really don’t understand,” she said. “It didn’t make much sense until I actually met the child. Applying it was the key to me.”

Jessurun said that her biggest revelation was learning that certain kinds of lessons were more effective for her student than others. “In the first lesson, I didn’t have any manipulatives or hands-on activities,” she said. “And when I returned, she remembered nothing. Once I figured out that she was a visual learner, I tailored lessons to that. That was a huge thing for me.”

Jessurun said the class confirmed her calling to teach, something she has felt since she was seven. “I always had a fear that I wouldn’t like it or I wouldn’t be good at it or be able to deal with children,” she said. “But once I saw the progression of my student and the fact that you literally see the results, I am confident — 100 percent — that I chose the right path. Teachers are the most impactful people in the world.”

—By Meg Cullar

WEB EXTRA: See more photos from 1312 classes