By Katie Martin, MFA
Field Experience Specialist, College of Education
Each and every semester, thousands of Grand Canyon University student teachers head into schools all over the country. With the energy, passion and dedication to make a difference in their communities, these future teachers are radically impacting the children in their classrooms.
I had the chance to catch up with one of these students, Chelsea Havens, a student teacher in Wisconsin. In this interview, Chelsea shared some of the challenges and successes she experienced along the way and provided insight to future GCU student teachers.
Why did you choose to serve in the classroom as a teacher?
I, like the majority of individuals going into the field of education, desired to influence and inspire a love of learning into the lives of students. However, as a result of my increasing time in the classroom and undergrad classes at GCU, the transition in my heart began to take root. I went from teaching for my own fulfillment, to teaching to serve.
There is no limit to how you can grow as an individual when you are daily surrounded by inquisitive, humble minds. I have learned that teaching ultimately requires a servant’s heart. Teaching is not about me. Realizing this transformed my instruction into one of the most joyful and fulfilling experiences of my life.
What was it like to go through an online program?
Taking part in GCU’s online program of study was a challenging, rewarding and unique experience. Unlike a traditional educational program, the online program provides the flexibility, many times required, to complete coursework when and where it fits your schedule.
Online programs also provide a great deal more than flexibility. Through this structure, you are able to actively seek out, interface and build relationships with your local school districts (of your choosing).
I learned through this program that learning can truly take place in any format. This lesson is one which will transfer into my future classrooms, as I seek to provide an education that caters to the strengths and needs of my students.
Did you feel prepared when you started in the classroom?
I’ve always had the mindset that when it comes to others, everything will work itself out. But when it came to my own life, my glass was half empty—with a leak in the bottom.
In this respect, GCU was the best place for me. Any doubts I had regarding my abilities to teach were eliminated, as the preparation GCU provided through consistent practicum experiences and courses, taught me the necessary skills to work with diverse learners and ages.
More importantly, I learned that the heart of education is being a lifelong learner yourself. I am realizing that as an educator, consistently learning is a part of the trade. Humility, confidence and excitement for continual growth naturally follow.
What most surprised you about teaching?
Teaching is a whirlwind of learning experiences. This is to be expected; teaching encompasses the integration of cultivated instructional strategies, techniques, curriculums, etc. that have been studied over the course of your education. Combining all of this knowledge and experience into a single lesson, can be overwhelming at times.
However, there are no words to express how exciting it is to realize that you just applied a particular strategy you read about two years ago. More importantly, your learning has been worth all the sleepless nights (and more to come), as it can catapult the ultimate learning of your students.
What’s been the most difficult part of student teaching?
The most difficult aspect of student teaching has been never having enough time in a day.
I have had the most amazing examples and support (both personal and professional) throughout this experience. There are so many hats to juggle while working in an educational classroom: parent relationships, student learning, student well-being, professional collaboration, lesson planning, scheduling and so much more.
It will be a lifelong lesson for me, but it is important to remember that you can’t always get everything done exactly when you want or need to. Instead, shift your focus to your students’ well-being; ultimately, the essential components to their personal and educational growth are of the upmost importance.
Where do you see yourself going forward?
Moving forward, I’m open to serving wherever God may lead. The roadmap to my future has already been written, in a nice handheld book we call the Bible. It is an honor that I will be able to apply its principles of service to the everyday nuances of the classroom.