For junior Shane Riordan, walking into his sixth grade science classroom at In-Tech Academy in the Bronx means balancing a tightrope between being a normal college student and an educator.
As an education major, Riordan is just one of many Manhattan College students who has gained first-hand experience by observing classrooms and student teaching at neighboring schools in the community.
“At first, I was skeptical about working with sixth graders,” Riordan said. Over the past three years he has worked with many different grades and age levels from kindergarten through fourth grade but middle school was new terrain.
“It was intimidating the first couple of days because they are much older than what I was used to,” Riordan said. “After a few weeks of working with them, i softened up to the sixth grade and was enjoying having the opportunity to broaden my teaching experience as well as learning about these student as well as myself.”
His freshman year, Riordan majored in kinesiology but quickly switched to elementary special education because of highly influential and personal experiences he had with teachers throughout his life.
“I grew up going through school having dyslexia and still to this day. School was always hard for me and after realizing how some of my teachers made a difference in my life I knew that I wanted to do the same for those who are going through what I have,” Riordan said.
One of the things that makes student teaching and observing so interesting is the idea that someone is juggling being both a learner and an educator at the same time. For Riordan, however, the best teachers are lifetime learners.
“One of the greatest things about student teaching is experiencing what you are learning in class first hand with students,” he said. “One thing that I take back to MC from student teaching is the love for teaching. It motivates me to do well.”
Sophomore Annie King knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was just eight years old, after her cousins were diagnosed with autism.
“I would always watch their struggles and was fascinated with their therapists. I’ve also been a counselor and a coach for young kids and I knew that I wanted to be a teacher and I wouldn’t change my decision to be an education major for anything,” King said.
On Wednesdays, King observes a second grade classroom at P.S. 86-Kingsbridge Heights School for three hours.
King said that the most gratifying part of her experience is the appreciation her kids show towards her and the other members of the teaching staff.
“Every Wednesday, we see the students coming back from lunch and as they each file into the classroom, some of them stop and hug us and tell us how much they’ve been looking forward to seeing us on Wednesdays. It really makes us feel like part of the classroom community,” King said.
One of her favorite memories was from observing a classroom last semester at P.S. 37. While having a discussion about basketball and one of the league’s most famed players Steph Curry, one of her students shared his dreams for the future with her.
“The student told me that when he’s older he wants to be in the NBA but he also wants to be a baker ‘because you know Ms Annie, NBA games are at night so I could have a bakery in the morning and go to my games at night!’”
Like Riordan, there are certain things that King has learned through her observations that make her a more attentive, self-aware student in the classroom.
“A huge thing that I’ve learned is to respect your teachers. As I watch the students in my observation classroom, I see them look to their teacher as well as us as a role model and a huge source of inspiration for what they might want to be when they get older,” King said.
Another thing she has learned from being at P.S. 86 is the value of a good worth ethic and the ability to think big.
“One thing that the students have taught me is definitely to appreciate what I have and to work hard. A lot of the students in our classroom have parents that are illiterate or don’t speak English but the students themselves work so hard in class and are so determined to understand and master a concept because they have such high aspirations for themselves in the future,” she said.