Medford's teachers of tomorrow took a trial run Tuesday, leaving their own studies to spend a morning teaching at Jackson Elementary School.
About two dozen South Medford High School students arrived at Jackson at 8 a.m., ready to assume the role of co-teachers in classrooms ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade. This was a hands-on assignment in the "Learners and Learning" Pathway course, geared toward high school sophomores, juniors and seniors who are interested in teaching careers.
High school instructor Sheri Smith floated in and out, observing without comment, while groups of two or three students guided their assigned classrooms through a children's book. She said the experience of teaching others, in addition to inspiring the elementary students, will help her own students learn about themselves.
"What better opportunity to actually try it out and see, 'Is this a path for me?' " she said. "If not, great ― head in a different direction. But do it before you're actually spending large quantities of money on college courses only to discover that you're on the wrong path."
That's the goal of Pathway courses: to allow high school students chances to explore their career interests before graduation. The courses fall into several categories: academics, such as math and English; visual and performing arts; career and technical education; and pre-professional courses, including pre-medical and pre-teaching. They are intended to build on each other throughout a student's high school career. This is the second year they have been in place across Medford high schools.
Smith said the students this year had been learning mostly about lesson planning, and Tuesday's trial run was focused on executing what they'd learned.
After reading through the book, the student-teachers led their classes through an art project related to the book. In Amanda Klosterman's first-grade class, sophomores Talia Hutchins and Natasha Vu read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," and then showed their charges how to make hats that looked like mouse faces. One or two squeaking elementary students had to be pulled up from the floor.
For some of the high school students, the trip to Jackson had personal significance intertwined with professional. South Medford senior Margaret Johnson attended Jackson, and this was her first time back. In addition, she and her co-teacher, Cheyenne Clement, were both mentored at Kids Unlimited by Brian Ayala, whose class they taught for the morning.
When their lesson was over and the students were outside for recess, Ayala, Johnson and Clement sat in pint-sized chairs around a semi-circular table, and Ayala asked them for their impressions.
Johnson was feeling some hesitation.
"After this, I think that yes, I'd like to teach, but maybe an older age group," she said. "I admire the patience it takes to manage these kids, but I don't know if I have it."
Clement, meanwhile, said she felt affirmed by the time spent in class that morning. She volunteers as a math tutor with this same class for her senior project, so the environment and the students were more familiar.
"It makes me sure that that's what I want to go into," she said.