Kirby Register graduated from Francis Marion University (FMU) in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. She has since put her degree to use as a third grade math and science teacher at Spalding Elementary in Lamar, South Carolina.
According to Register, the education program at FMU aided in her transition from student to teacher in many ways.
“[The faculty] had really high standards of what they expected out of their student teachers which makes a huge difference,” Register said. “The in-depth process and the observations and lesson planning made a huge difference as well.”
Register also said while lesson plans were difficult to prepare, they also made her more confident in her teaching skills and knowledge base while teaching her how important it was to be prepared.
She said another difficult but important process that she had to go through before obtaining her degree and becoming a teacher was student teaching, but “the support that [was] received from faculty, staff and family” made it easier for her.
Register added that student teaching “require[s] a lot of you, but once you get through it, you’re well prepared.”
In addition to lesson plans, Register also had to complete a Long-Range plan. This plan “maps out what you talk about for the rest of the time that you’re in [the classroom],” she said. “It also asks you to delve into the different specifics of the kids and school and the background so that you’re prepared to teach those kids.”
As she began student teaching, Register not only created plans and instructed the students in her class, but she learned as she observed and interacted with them. She said one lesson that the students taught her was how important it is to incorporate hands-on or tactile activities into the lessons.
“I think [the students] probably liked science the best because they got to do experiments, and my favorite to teach was science and social studies because we did a lot of foldables in social studies,” she said. “Foldables are [what you make] when instead of just taking notes on a piece of paper, you take a piece of paper, fold it in half and make certain cuts.”
Register said she believes that while these activities do create more work for the teacher, the students enjoy them more and retain more of the information. Register said if “you do it and you’re involved in it, then you’re going to learn it.”
Now that Register has her own classroom, she said the lessons that she learned in student teaching have carried through for many reasons.
In addition to providing the students with hands-on activities that will help them enjoy learning, Register said teaching this way also allows the teacher to be prepared for any spontaneous observations.
“We [teachers] never know when we’re going to have an observation,” she said. “We don’t know when our principal or master teacher or mentor teacher or someone from the district or even a parent may come, so you have to be prepared every day.”
One example of being prepared in her classroom that Register gave was pre-cutting the foldables for the students so they do not have to spend valuable learning time that way. She also said “it makes a world of difference when you go in prepared.”
Register said she has had several positive teaching moments so far, but one of the most memorable moments came when she was observed by a veteran teacher from her district.
According to Register, the teacher told her, “‘I’m not worried about you. You act like a veteran teacher.” Register also said this teacher left her a “very sweet note” which reiterated her teaching skills, complemented her on a job well done and instructed her to “get some rest.”
In the future, Register plans to return to FMU to get her master’s degree this summer and to continue realizing her life-long dream of teaching at a school with an administration that provides her with “a true support team.”
“It makes a huge difference when you love the people that you’re working with, and I love the people that I’m working with,” she said.