Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A big thank you for teaching a student teacher how to teach!!!

I was lucky in 1971--I had a fabulous student teaching experience! 

Athens, Ohio, in the Hocking Hills of southeast Ohio, is not close to a large city.  My friends and I wanted to student teach in a big city-- practicing our skills in the true adult world.  The large city where OU placed student teachers was Cleveland, Ohio, about as far as one could be from Athens and still be in Ohio.

My placement was teaching 8th grade social studies at Harding Middle School in Lakewood, a Cleveland suburb.  My excitement of getting an apartment with my friends outweighed my nervousness at being thrown into a classroom.  We found a landlord who specialized in short-term leases for student teachers. We four co-eds thought we lived in Windsor Castle!  Spacious, close to the bus line, and in the city, this apartment was perfect. Amazingly, one roommate and I were placed at the same school, so we took the bus each morning to our school.

Mr. Mulling, my supervising teacher, was the reason my student experience was a perfect introduction to the classroom.  First, he let me observe him for a few days.  Each day we met to discuss his lessons and his planning.  Then one day, he told me I was going to teach.   "Yikes, I'm not ready" was my first thought.  But he knew I had to jump in.

He next required me to write out my lesson plans, giving me the format I had to use  Today, requiring lessons plans in student teaching seems like a no-brainer, but I knew others who were not required to plan and write as much as I was.  At the time, of course, I felt somewhat put-upon.  Now, I know that requirement helped in my first teaching job and still helps me today!

He stayed in the classroom for one or two days while I executed my well-written plans.  Teaching seemed very easy!  Good students and good plans made for a good day.  Then, it happened; he left me ALONE in the classroom. 

Each day became more challenging as the students realized I was "in charge".  They tested my authority each day. One day I chastised a class, reminding them that they wouldn't act up if Mr.Mulling was there.  At wit's end, I finally went to get Mr. Mulling, sure he would "have my back" with this group.   My jaw dropped when he said, "No, Linda, you need to handle the class on your own."  He probably gave me a few suggestions, but I had no time for a lengthly educational chat. The  class could be hanging on the ceiling by now.

 I don't remember specifically what happened when I returned, but I do remember that I "handled the class".  Again, he knew the right course for my successful teaching experience.   I'm sure I had some discipline issues later, but I had learned a most valuable lesson---I had to learn how to plan for possible discipline problems and how to think on my feet,  because certain aspects of classroom management cannot be predicted!

I finally need to thank Mr. Mulling  for allowing me to be creative. One of my final, planned activities was an extensive class mock trial. If he had reservations about the extent of my project, he never told me.  What he did do was ask me questions about every aspect of it, allowing me to come up with the answers. Now I know he was helping me think through the entire project, without telling me what to do!

On the big day of implementing the project, my boyfriend (now my husband) was visiting me at school.  He helped by reading the introduction of my script.   He still remembers the words: "Today on a cloudy fall morning, in Spain's prison courtyard.. . . "  I can't remember the rest of the role playing, but I do remember the feeling when I realized I had survived a huge, successful activity.

 I learned recently that Mr.Mulling died this past November.  Even though I'm sad that I can't tell him about my retirement, I am so pleased that I had called him about 10 years ago when we were visiting Cleveland.  I told him how much student teaching had meant to me, and I told him that I had been in education for many years.  I hope that phone call meant as much to him as it did to me----it was a small way to pay back his kindness to a 21 year old many years ago.

My dad used to say to "get it from the beginning", whenever my brother or I started on a new venture. 

Mr Mulling,  you were a master teacher before that term became popular in education, touching many young lives. Thank you for helping me to "get it from the beginning", which led to  my 37 years in the classroom.


  1. What a great post, Linda. I love how genuine and heartfelt it was. He sounds like he was an incredible teacher, and man. I am glad you took that opportunity 10 years ago to thank him.

  2. I remember your student teaching experience well. Do you remember when I got so upset watching a University of Kentucky basketball game that I had to leave the apartment and walk up and down the street to calm down? THings haven't changed much, have they? I love your blog.

  3. That is exactly what Dad said: "Get it from the beginning." I also remember that while he had some concern about you going to the big city of Cleveland at such a "young age," he trusted your good sense and that you were really my grown up little sister.