Taylor Lively seems out of place in the room. The 21-year-old Castleton State College multi-disciplinary education major sits in an undersized chair with tennis balls on the legs and she’s surrounded by kids.
But Lively isn’t out of place, she is just waiting for her chance to lead the class of fifth graders at Castleton Elementary School as a student teacher.
This semester, she spends her time at the school under the supervision of fifth grade teacher Martha Clifford.
Lively does everything from observing, teaching collaboratively and even teaching some lessons on her own. She said she very much enjoys working with the kids in Clifford’s classroom.
“They try to keep us working within our strengths,” she said. “They ask what you are good at and if you say math or spelling they let you teach that lesson.”
Lively spends two days a week there and needs 150 hours, two videotaped lessons, a literacy case study and a special education case study to complete her work.
“I was really nervous coming in, but I think things have gone very well,” she said. “I actually just got asked if I was married.”
Clifford said the kids have a lot more enthusiasm when new people come into the room to teach.
The Inquiry program is similar to student teaching, but has a few subtle differences. The most important is that there are fewer rules governing it. At Castleton Elementary School, the number of student teachers is limited, but less so for inquiry students.
“We keep it to one student teacher every two or three years,” Clifford said. “With the inquiry program we can have one or more every semester.”
Clifford, who has worked in Castleton Elementary for 13 years, said she loves what the Inquiry program does for both Castleton students and her fifth graders.
“Kids love the extra attention. They love being able to work one on one,” she said. She also believes the Inquiry program is a good way for Castleton students to get experience working in a real school setting.
Another Castleton senior, Nathan McMahon, is also loving student teaching.
“It has been a great experience. It has its ups and downs like any other job. The program at Castleton has provided me with a lot of information and support the last two semesters. To be a part of a student’s life has rewards beyond monetary gain and that’s what I have learned.”
“The best part is it’s never going to be the same. Every kid every year is different.”