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Lisa Pruitt is an aspiring teacher who currently works at the Daily Journal. Her journey  continues in this second part where she discovers more about herself and her teaching abilities at West County Middle School and where her journey ends (or is it just beginning?).

As of May 1, I am officially an educated fool. Educated because I just earned my Bachelor’s degree from Missouri Baptist University. A fool because people have always responded with, “Why teaching, there’s no money in that” when discovering what I plan to do. This is how I look at it; I can do something I have always wanted to do and enjoy my life or I can become  something I am not for a higher wage and end up a bitter old woman in a big, lonely house.

My education has recently come to a close (for now, those funny little hats the Doctorate students get are on my wish list) but it’s not the end that matters, it is the journey. I had a great experience and learned more than I could have imagined at Bismarck but that was done  and I had to move on. My second placement was at West County Middle School, which was a little more frightening.

Why, you ask. Well, mainly because I went to school there and even though it has been quite some time since I was in middle school, not to mention it’s in a different building, I pictured myself walking in and immediately being looked upon as if I were still a student. I have heard stories of teachers going back to their “nests”, as a greatly admired Mr. Daughtery referred to schools they graduated from, and the outcomes are not always a homecoming. When some teachers go back, especially the recently graduated, they feel as if they are still a student, and that those teachers who taught them still see them that way.

My experience was not like that at all. It might have been different for me because it has been somewhere between 13 and 15 years since I have been in middle school. Another reason is because out of all of the teachers at West County Middle School, only two actually taught me in school. Everyone though, including those two I had as teachers, welcomed me with open arms, open hearts, and an endless supply of the best advice you can never buy. Maybe the real reason I fit in so well at West County was exactly what Nick says in his going away card to me.

“WC is in YOUR BLOOD! From Your Favorite” Nick

My student teaching experience at West County was very similar to that of Bismarck, except for the grade level,  the MAP testing, the reviewing for MAP testing, the quickness in which I took over full-time, and of course the students, so I guess it wasn’t the same at all. Maybe this is why the University requires us to teach at two different school district, so we don’t get too settled in one and gain even more experience from the second.

Like I mentioned previously the MAP test, the Missouri Assessment Program, and the review for said test took up a lot of time at West County. The MAP test was on the tongue of every staff member from the first day I walked in. I realized long ago when I took it and similar tests that it was important, but I never realized how much until I was required to prepare students to take it.  

From my first day at West County every lesson we taught, every activity we did, and every breath we took was in preparation. I, along with Mrs. Clifton, my West County cooperating teacher, covered a lot of material during the first five weeks. The sixth week marked the deadline and the MAP was on. The school was silent throughout testing so even when language arts was finished testing the students had to have quiet work to be doing.

After the second week of silence however the students really got into the spirit of learning about my pet peeves in grammar and some obscure punctuation marks, such as the Snark which indicates sarcasm is being used (I really wish my keyboard had one of those), and creating their own punctuation marks. Two winners were chosen out of each class and they received treats on my last day at West County.

Unlike at Bismarck, I did not have the students write me letters for the last day, instead we had a sort of round table discussion in each of the morning classes. During these discussions just as I did at Bismarck I handed out what might become my trade-mark, a lei. Lei is  the traditional Hawaiian symbol of affection when arriving or leaving. I happen to despise saying good-bye, so instead I say Aloha, which in traditional Hawaiian means affection, peace, compassion and mercy, but has become a way to say hello or good-bye which I find leads to less tears and smeared eyeliner for me. During the round table, each of the students had to say at least one thing they liked about my time at their school and one thing they did not like. I was relieved a little to learn that the worst thing about my time at West County was that I was leaving - the students’ opinion happened to match my own.

During lunch the staff of West County surprised me with a pot-luck lunch and a huge cake to congratulate me on my accomplishments. I kind of had some inkling that this might happen. What I didn’t have any idea about was what happened after my fifth hour class. I was scheduled to have an exit meeting with Kevin Coffman, West County Middle School Principle, therefore Mrs. Clifton was taking over while I did so. What I failed to realize was that the “exit interview” was more of a diversion. Mr. Coffman asked me all kinds of questions about what I thought of West County, and wrote some of my answers down, so I hope it is useful knowledge. What this was leading up to, however, was as Mr. Coffman stated  “a tour of the building” and a chance for me to “express my thoughts on changes that can be made.” This tour eventually led to the cafeteria, where to my surprise the lights were off and the moment I walked in, I found the entire sixth grade waiting with a going away party and a huge group hug.

“Surprise!”

Needless to say, the tears were not far from the surface during this party. The students had planned it, with Mrs. Clifton’s and I’m sure some other teachers’ help, and kept it a surprise. There were all kinds of snacks, cake, and a table with cards galore. The best kind of cards too, the handmade type with handwritten sentiments from the heart. Such as:

“Remember: When you take over the world, you owe me that Rottweiler.” Lauren  

“I thinks Pruitt with an I is better.” Matthew

“You was, by far, the best student teacher and at least top 5 regular teachers I know.” Reid

“You make learning fun once everyone shuts up so we can learn.” Alivia

“The time flew by, eight weeks were like eight days.” Deaven

“Even if you are the mean one you did a good job at West County Middle School. P.S. You make kids cry.” Trevor.

By the way, Trevor, the only way I make kids cry is to beat them ... at football.

 I was a little overwhelmed and entirely appreciative that they would even think to do something like this. I felt as if I were a part of a huge family and that they were honestly going to miss me. There were a few gifts one of which is a big picture frame that all the sixth grade students had signed and a picture will come.

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After all were finished with their snacks it was play time. Mr. John Hartley brought along his trusty football and the match was on. Now those of you who know me know that at one points  long, long time ago ... I was active in cheerleading and some softball an even longer time ago. Other than those two things, however, I never did anything remotely resembling a sport except for the occasional P.E. activities. Well, I participated on this day, and let me tell you I was pleasantly surprised.

I was stationed next to Mr. Hartley, who was playing quarterback, and I was all-time offense, not that I did much but watch him throw the ball. At one point, however, he decided I should take part and threw the ball to me. I missed it. The sun was glaring. A raindrop hit me in the eye. In actuality, I do believe what I did was a very strategic, evasive maneuver which I will call ...  The Duck. On his next pass to me, Mr. Hartley did not realize the error of his ways and he threw it way over my head ... I am what we will call petite. (Do Not Call Me Short!) After the two failed attempts he realized he needed to do it the right way ... hand me the ball like a gentleman and let me do the work from there. So there I was, with football in hand, staring down the field at the barbarians after me, knowing I had to somehow get past them. I took off like a bolt of static electricity ... lightning is so cliché ... and shot down the field weaving, bobbing, and pirouetting around the invaders. After running a little over a mile I scored. TOUCHDOWN!!! Those kids didn’t stand a chance against my finely honed evasive tactics. (I’ve been running from shadows and various other little things  since I could see.)

At about the same time I scored enough points that I alone won the game, with a small assist from the offensive side for keeping the defense away, and a minor mention for the esteemed quarterback, the weather decided to change and rain was upon us. After the exertions from outside it was a fragrant seventh hour spent with the student’s reminiscing about the last eight weeks and assuring them that I will come back to visit.

{Pop Quiz ---- What figurative language is being used in the preceding paragraphs}

“You’re kind, pretty, wonderful, great teacher and you’re funny.” Lacy.

“You are the best teacher I ever had.” Jake.

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“Thank you for teaching us and for just being you, Amazing!” Sheranity.

Outside of card “One thing we will do when your gone is that...” inside of card “We will miss you!” Corin.

“You are a great teacher. You teach us in fun ways. I will really miss you.” Joel

“You are awesome” Jacob

“You were the best student teacher I knew though I only knew two but you were nice sometimes.” Corey

“You’re really funny. Thanks for calling me the Buffinator.” Brent

“We had so much fun with you hope you had fun with us too! Ali

“You  are a fun teacher who is also smart. Thank you for coming to our school to teach us.” Nathan

In all seriousness I had an incredible time at West County and had incredible students who might have changed my mind about teaching ... I didn’t think I could love it more than I did after the first incredible eight weeks at Bismarck.

The hardest part of this long, fulfilling past sixteen weeks was leaving. Leaving not one great school, but three (if you include Missouri Baptist University). Leaving not one bunch of great kids, but two. Leaving behind new friends and colleagues.

 The planning was hard but fulfilling, the reflecting taught me a lot about my budding teaching style, the classroom management was a pain but worth the effort, but leaving my students after such a short period of time was like leaving half a piece of candy uneaten. And I never leave candy uneaten.

Thank you to all the teachers, administration and staff at West County School District for making my transition from student to teacher possible and as smooth as could be. You were great.

Thank you to all the teachers, administration and staff at Missouri Baptist University Mineral Area Extension for making my journey  from someone who has always wanted to be a teacher to someone who is now, officially a teacher. You were great.

“May you hunt for knowledge!” Meagan

P.S. To all my students, remember, when your teacher also works with the press, your words can and will be used ... in the newspaper!

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