A Life-Changing Professor Teaching All Of Us

In college, I had this professor. You know the one that changes your life and puts you right on course for where you need to be? Yep, she’s the one. 

Dr. Mecham was my professor for my level two practicum (level four is student teaching, for perspective). On the very first day of class, she stood up in front of the roughly 150 students currently in the practicum and said, “This semester is going to be really hard. It will push you to a lot of limits and we will expect a lot from you. So if you feel like you need to switch to an easier major, perhaps engineering, then go ahead and talk to us and we can direct you to the correct advisors to help you make this switch.” 

I was blown away that she had the audacity to state that majoring in engineering would be an easier route than an education degree. I’ve never taken any engineering classes, so I cannot confirm or deny that her statements were true, but I will say that we were worked very hard by our professors and we were expected to perform to the highest standard that semester. 

During my practicum, it not only required 14 hours of classes a week but also being in an elementary school classroom every day of the semester working with a teacher to provide classroom experience. This time in the classroom was focused on working with students in small groups and one-on-one to slowly introduce us to eventually student teaching.

My practicum experience in the classroom was less than ideal, with a teacher that often sent me to the copy room to do mindless copy work and rarely let me work with students. There were multiple other problems I ran into, most of which I wish I would have been bold enough to stand up for myself, but at the time I wasn’t. 

After a semester of feeling discouraged and not very adequate as a teacher, I had my final interview with my professor, Dr. Mecham. I accomplished all of my school work, had a 4.0 GPA, and according to the books, it looked like I was the perfect candidate to continue my education degree.  However, my mental state said otherwise. Dr. Mecham was ready to pass me off and tell me I was ready to continue, but before so, she asked her final question that went something like, “Do you feel ready to move on and that you passed your level two practicum?” 

With tears in my eyes, I told her I couldn’t. I said that being a teacher must not be what I am supposed to do as a career, because I felt so inadequate in the classroom, and that I possibly needed to consider a new degree. 

She comforted me with compassion, asked details on why I was feeling this way, and reassured me that I wasn’t the problem, my situation was the problem. 

I left her classroom with a warm hug and felt better and more confident than ever before. She truly had just changed my life and kept me on the path as a teacher, one that I am still so happy to be on, even if I’m not actively teaching at the moment! 

A handful of times I ran into Dr. Mecham in grocery stores and other places throughout town. Every time she saw me she always stopped to say hello with a warm, welcoming smile. She always was ready to take the time to acknowledge an old student, which made me feel like a million bucks! 

About a year after being in her class, I was walking through campus with a new haircut. I happened to pass Dr. Mecham on my walk and the first thing she said was, “Oh cute new haircut! I like that style on you!” 

I want you to realize that Dr. Mecham hadn’t had me as a student in a full year. I had only seen her very briefly in passing a handful of times. And still, she recognized that I changed my hair! If you want to know the true definition of personal teaching, she is the icon for it. She also asked about my experience at college how far along I was in my program. I was happy to tell her that I would be student teaching soon, ready to take my final step in the program to reach graduation. She was elated for me! She knew how hard it was for me to get through my level two practicum and I knew she was the only reason I continued on. 

I thanked her again for telling me how truly hard it would be and preparing me to work hard. And for knowing me and my struggles through it all. I wasn’t just another student walking the halls of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education at Utah State University, I was a student of Dr. Mecham, someone she knew and cared about. And that made all the difference for me. 

I try to remember Dr. Mecham in my teaching experience. I try to get to know each of my students personally and pay attention to them as a human, not just someone to teach the curriculum to. 

And I strongly suggest you teach like Dr. Mecham too. 

You can read an interview I did with her earlier this year. Read her advice to pre-service teachers, it’s so good! 

 

Dear Teacher: Thank You For Your Service

Dear Teacher, 

How are you? No, really. Take a minute to close your eyes and really think. How are you doing? 

This school year is unlike any other. Instead of walking into your classroom, putting up creative borders and posters around your classroom, and setting up for students, you sat at your computer waiting for emails, calls, or anything that would indicate how you would be teaching this year. 

Virtual? 

Hybrid? 

In-person? 

Masks? No masks? How much plexiglass would be installed in your classroom? 

It’s natural and okay to feel overwhelmed by the state of this school year. So many of you were told one thing, only to be changed last minute. Those expecting to be all online had to curate a socially distant classroom experience in a matter of hours because districts and higher-ups changed the protocol in the 11th hour. Some who spent all summer working on their socially distant classrooms were changed to all online and had to revamp their whole curriculum overnight. 

You’re expected to teach our “lost generation”, those who won’t have the opportunity at the same education as others have. It can put a certain level of guilt on you as their main source of education! 

But you’re a good teacher. 

You’re trying your best. 

The students are the center of your work. 

How do I know? Because it takes a special heart to be an educator, especially in today’s political world. And I know you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t care about your students as much as you do. 

Think back to one year ago, did you know the term “socially distant”? Would you have ever imagined teaching with a mask on all day? Did you ever see yourself on Zoom teaching concepts that really need to be taught in a personal setting? Like…. How to write….? 

No. No one saw this coming, no one could have prepared us for today. 

Your students are the same way, they were blindsided one day in March when nearly every school shut down with very little notice for an undisclosed amount of time. 

Doctors and nurses on the front lines treating COVID are heroes and need recognition. But maybe our teachers are being somewhat forgotten about. Here you are, putting in as much time and effort as these doctors. You’re working long shifts and giving your whole heart and soul to bring the education back to your communities, putting your life and your family’s lives at risk while you do it. 

Instead of nursing COVID patients back to health, you’re nursing our lost generation back to education. You’re providing our society as a whole a brighter future through your efforts. 

You are seen. You are of immeasurable value. You are the heroes we need right now. 

Thank you for your service. 

Never Ever Give Up

Someone shared this YouTube video with me of a group of 9 to 13 year olds singing a cover of this song to essential workers. They are thanking doctors, teachers, grocery store workers, and more, in the most tender-hearted way.

To all of you teachers out there on the front lines, sanitizing desks, iPads, and markers just to make it through the school day. The teachers navigating Zoom to teach students. To those early childhood educators working out creative ways to still make toys and play a part of the classroom. To the college professors doing everything they can to follow school protocol, and encouraging your students to do the same. The professors pre-recording lectures for students to watch online.

To those risking their lives.

To those who are starting their first year of teaching all over again (p.s. that’s all teacher’s this year).

To the overwhelmed and the underpaid.

Please listen to this song.

“No matter what you’re facing, you are my inspiration. You’re the fire that doesn’t know how to back down.”

Never. Ever. Give. Up.

These kids need you now more than ever. You’ve got this.


Please share with a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a delivery driver, a grocery store worker, or anyone else on the front lines who may need to hear this.

It’s Summer, Take A Break Teachers!

Whew. 

Who is ready for a good, long summer break after that school year? Is anyone else filled with worries about your students after such a rough spring? Maybe miss them because you weren’t able to say your goodbye’s before you left? Scenarios of next year play out in your head about your past students and how they will do advancing to the next grade, as well as your future students and how you will handle the lapse in the curriculum. 

*deep breath* 

I know it’s worrisome, but we did it. We all made it through. Now, it’s time to relax. I know, it can be hard, but here’s some ideas of how you can (somewhat) take your mind off of school for a time and enjoy your summer break. 

Read a book! No, not your math curriculum book. A book of your choosing that is fun. If you want an easy, fast read with some juicy drama, try The Selection Series by Kiera Cass. It’ll give you a few days of distraction because you’ll be so sucked in it’ll be all you can think about! 

Visit the beach, the lake, the pool, and get in the water! Swim with your kids, your nieces, and nephews, your grandkids, whomever it may be! 

Go hiking, or go for walks around your neighborhood. 

Check-in on other teacher friends. Laugh about the fun times you had with your students, both in the classroom and on Zoom! 

Pick up some new (or old) hobbies like sewing, crafting, biking, sailing, or building. 

Start or work on your Twitter or Instagram, or any other social media! 

Read teacher memes to keep you laughing. 

Take a stroll on a local scooter or bike share, but bring the Clorox wipes!! 

Summer can make or break teachers. We can think and plan, never giving ourselves a break, hoping to make next year less stressful, but it can also do the opposite by not giving us the time we need to check out. This summer especially, given the current circumstances. 

Take a breather. Take some time. Enjoy your summer! Stay safe and wash your hands!