You see them everywhere in schools, starting in January and February -- taking notes in the back of class, administering interim assessments, heading to or from the copy machine. Unsure if you're an administrator or a parent, they smile nervously when you walk by them in the hall. Sometimes they get to teach a lesson or run part of an activity, which serves to remind anyone watching (a) how hard it is to be a good teacher or (b) how crappy the regular teacher is. They're student teachers -- college students finishing up their education degrees with a little bit of classroom time. They're not all young faceless widgets, however. Some of them stand out. One of them -- let's call her HGT (not pictured) -- is a student teacher in a large Midwestern school district who decided one day to start a blog about being a teacher that is, for education blogs, sort of popular. She hasn't revealed her identity to anyone outside a close circle of friends and I've agreed to help keep her secret. On the Hot Seat (below), she talks about what it's like being a student teacher, where she came up with the idea for "Hey Girl Teacher" and how it took off, and why it's been such a big hit among young teachers and teaching candidates. She also dishes on her ed school preparation, what she thinks about people who go the TFA route, and explains the mysterious appeal of Ryan Gosling.
What was the moment or realization that caused you to start HGT, and how long between that moment and your first post?
HGT: I was observing in my new classroom a little over a month ago and I had one of those "Ah HA!" moments we all love to see from our students. I literally wrote, "Hey girl, teacher" in my student teaching journal and whipped up my first meme that weekend. By the end of the week I had several hundred followers and began seeing the Hey Girl Teacher name linked on my friends' walls.
Do you remember what the "AHA!" moment was when you were observing and came up with the idea?
HGT: I have seen the "feminist ryan gosling" photos as well as the "hey girl" meme that speaks to crafters and have always found them funny. I realized, while watching my teacher, that if anyone needed some words of encouragement, it was teachers. I really admire my mentor teacher and her ability to include humor and silliness in her classroom. I think that her spirit may have helped to inspire me to make the first meme.
Which picture / caption was your breakout hit -- the one that got the most likes or generated the most attention?HGT: I tagged this one under "education" on tumblr and it was featured.
What is it about ryan gosling that everyone loves so much, anyway?
HGT: I really never hopped on the ryan gosling band wagon until I saw him in Crazy Stupid Love. I've tried watching The Notebook many times and can't get myself to connect with his character. What sold me on him is that he's not a typical hunk. His movies are usually really good and he often plays a man with flaws. Girls like that. He's charming, muscular enough to chop wood, and photographs incredibly well. He's perfect for my purposes.
What do you have to do as a student teacher, anyway, and is your "mentor" teacher into helping you learn the craft or just happy to have someone to copy worksheets?
HGT: My mentor teacher is absolutely wonderful. We both manage the classroom and so far I'm teaching 3/4ths of the day. Sure, I sometimes run copies or grade papers while she teaches a lesson, but she's encouraging and is providing me with the space and time to get better. I can't imagine what it feels like to hand your classroom over to another person and I'm really lucky that she's got enough faith in me to do so.
How good or awful was your ed school program in terms of mixing practical and theoretical information and getting you ready to teach in a real live classroom next year?
HGT: That's a tough question. I can't tell if I'm nervous because I'm not prepared or if I'd be nervous no matter what kind of training I'd received. I've been physically present in a lot of classrooms, but haven't had a lot of opportunity to manage a whole group until recently. In my college courses, we spent a lot of time planning and participating in mock lessons with our peers. We all pretended to be a certain grade level and tried to respond accordingly. However, we're all adults! When you "teach a lesson" to a group of college students, you don't run the risk of someone getting a bloody nose, four kids raising their hands because they have an "emergency," books falling on the ground, a hallway full of noisy 8th graders, or several pairs of students giggling throughout the room. It's completely different and seemed like a poor use of time. I would have liked to spend more time leading large groups and practicing my behavior management skills. I can plan until I'm blue in the face, but that's not going to help me learn how to redirect my students after a student shouts a curse word or has a melt down. Like I said, though, it's a tough questions. I don't think I'll ever feel fully prepared because in teaching, every single day is full of surprises.
Do you have any beef with folks that major in something else and then just do TFA or something before going into the classroom? are there any in your school right now?
HGT: I have a friend who joined TFA a few years ago and I can see that she's amazingly passionate and has been making a real impact in her students' lives. I don't have any beef with teachers that have chosen alternative paths and think that the most important thing about getting into the classroom is that the individual really wants to be there and make a difference.
Website: Hey, Girl Teacher