What is it like to student teach in Washington DC?

By Anna Herring

7:00am Hop on the metro.
7:30am Watch the sunrise over the Potomac.
When I arrive at my stop, I catch a ride with a grandparent who volunteers as an aide in the classroom.
8:00am When we arrive at school, I start preparing lessons for the day. I like to have everything planned before the students come in. I enjoy my hour in the classroom each morning to prepare for the day and organize the classroom for the students.
8:40am Students arrive; the class eats breakfast together.
9:00am School starts.
10:00am Phonics – our program is called Foundations.
10:30am Our daily math block. We work as a whole group and in small groups. We also do individual work. We do all we can to prepare for the big test at the end of the semester.
12:00pm Lunch.
12:30pm Recess!
1:00pm Reading aloud.
1:30pm Further reading instruction.
2:30pm The last 30 minutes of the day shift between social studies, tutoring, writing, and science.
3:00pm School is out. After school is over, I usually spend a few minutes planning with my mentor teacher before heading home for the day.
4:30pm Return home. During the first few weeks of the semester, I would begin my planning for the next day’s lessons the evening before. Now that my planning has become more efficient, I am able to come home and go running, go to dinner, or simply relax for a few hours before doing a little planning and heading to bed.

If another McKay School student were to shadow me for a day, I think she would be surprised at how rigid this school’s schedule is. For example, students are not allowed to talk in the lunchroom until everyone has been fed. Students are also asked to remain quiet in the hallways. Generally discipline in this urban setting is stricter than in many Utah schools.
Many students come from homes with real challenges, and the school is their favorite place to be. Many students would rather be at school than at home. A McKay School student might also be surprised at how many services are provided through the school. There are many classroom aides, and students are given breakfast and lunch. A few even receive dinner. The after school programs are amazing; many students and faculty are involved in tutoring, sports, and other programs.

"In Utah the students are expected to raise
their hands, sit quietly, and behave.
These basic behavior expectations are
the same in DC--one of the few
similarities I have seen."

In Utah the students are expected to raise their hands, sit quietly, and behave. These basic behavior expectations are the same in DC--one of the few similarities I have seen. Generally, the school is different than what McKay School students would encounter if they were student teaching in a Utah school. One of the lessons of teaching in an urban school is that an educator’s teaching style and classroom management have to be adjusted according to the educational setting. Despite the dramatic differences between schools in Provo and in DC, it’s important to remember that each school is unique and requires its own accommodations to meet its students’ needs. Utah schools would not survive in a setting like DC, and DC schools would struggle in Utah. Each school is appropriate for its location and the needs of its students. This is one of the greatest lessons I have learned while being in DC: The strength of our nation is in its diversity.

Anna Herring, a senior studying elementary education who is a member of the MSE Student Alumni Board, is student teaching in Washington DC. Follow Anna’s urban student teaching experience during her semester in our nation’s capitol.

Anna Herring

Other Chapters: