Every Wednesday afternoon throughout student teaching last semester, I met with my conference group. Led by our advisor (who is also our professor), five other students and myself discuss our placements, our coursework and any other relevant (and sometimes less than relevant) issues.
Typically, we meet in an office (on one occasion we attended a discussion at the Rubin Museum). For two hours we chat over a table spread with various snacks – this is far from a formal atmosphere. This isn’t a course in which you ultimately earn a grade, though you do earn course credit, and attendance is key.
I have found that this group adds a unique richness to my overall experience at Bank Street. I like hearing about the student teaching experiences of my peers – their triumphs and challenges. It’s also nice to have a platform for sharing my experiences, with people who understand what it is like to be in a similar environment, attempting to achieve similar goals.
If anybody is going to understand your trials and tribulations in becoming a teacher, these are the people. We exchange advice on how to teach a particular lesson, how to finagle a behavioral issue, or even tips on courses to register for or job hunting. I also like to think that my conference group offer me a chance to get out of my head and try another way of thinking. I don’t know about you, but I try not to get too bogged down in my approach – to teaching, to life! – and nothing helps more than hearing other people’s perspectives.
In fact, there are two people in my conference groupwho are further along in their program and are a wealth of knowledge on different courses in my program – museum education. They are also seasoned experts on interning in museums in this city, having been born and raised here and having been intent on working in this field for a long time.
Time for these quality conversations can be difficult to find during our actual classes. Conference group is a way to foster deeper connections between us, and make us think about what we might have yet to discover in each other. We are all a wealth of resources, but we won’t know it unless we try to get to know each other. Not only that, meeting with just a handful of others encourages both intimacy and discussion. It can be a lot less daunting to speak before five people rather than the twenty-five in a regular class.
In the Museum Education program, supervised fieldwork placements in museums happen during the Spring semester. I am really eager to attend my conference group as we embark on our new placements. I have a feeling that we are all in for an exciting period of adjustment, transferring to professional environments where we are more likely to be working on grants than helping eight-year-olds spell words. I’m looking forward to visiting each other’s institutions this Spring!