Barry Rishton is no wet-behind-the-ears, fresh-out-of-college education major gung-ho to put his imprint on impressionable youngsters in the classroom.
He's a seasoned career man, already with experience in two fields - commercial art/ad layout/merchandising and teaching at the higher education level. But he DOES have a desire to teach children and he is preparing to add certification at the secondary public school level to his list of credentials.Even though he has both bachelor's and master's degrees that qualify him in several fields, he is back in school. His master's degree is in education, but he prepared to teach at the college level. Now, he wants to teach in Utah's public schools and is following a tailor-made course to fill gaps in his educational experience related to teaching younger students.
As a student teacher at Butler Middle School in Jordan District, he's had glimpses of the "rush" that is the teacher's prime reward, as well as the stresses and challenges of the job.
"I can honestly say that the students I have been assigned are learning. And I'm learning as much as they are. . . . They are not `my' students and I feel I'm privileged to be able to use them to achieve my goals."
Student teaching has been among the most rewarding experiences of his life - and the most difficult - he said, "equal to getting my master's degree.
"Anyone who thinks he can sit down on the edge of a chair and teach junior high school students is deluded. It's no piece of cake. A person shouldn't do it unless he's willing to go through the process of preparing."
The students with whom he is practice-teaching "belong" to regular Butler art teacher Denise Ayres and journalism teacher Judy Angell, who are serving as mentors to Rishton. Their evaluations of his experience will be critical to certification.
"Their experience adds the hands-on, practical application to support the theory I've studied. I've learned a lot at the lunch tables, too," Rishton said, demonstrating the informal training that occurs when a beginner interacts with professionals, along with more formal processes.
He hopes to fill one of the few Utah openings for art teachers this fall, hopefully with advisory capacities on a school newspaper or yearbook.
Rishton created his own proposal to become qualified in public education before the State Board of Education had accepted a new policy for alternative certification, but his plan correlates closely with that policy.
He approached Richard Jones, director of alternative certification and dean of the Department of Education, Weber State University, with a plan to supplement his master's degree. In cooperation with the university, he altered his own proposal somewhat to a program "that is tailor-made for me. For alternative certification, that's what it should be."
He took additional classes in art to round out what he felt to be some weak areas in two- and three-dimensional modes, primarily - and some education methodology courses in journalism and art.
Years of professional experience do not necessarily equate to an ability to teach, he found. Translating that "grown-up" experience into something useful to young students can be challenging.
"I can do it. I can paint, I can write articles for a newspaper. But there's a big difference between doing it and getting students to do it."
When he went to Butler, he said, he could not discern the differences in skill levels between seventh-graders and ninth-graders. "Now I do see the difference and I gear the work to fit their abilities. You can't learn that in a college class. For instance, the naive ability of seventh-graders is beautiful, and you don't typically see it in the kids ready to go on to high school."
College also doesn't prepare a teacher for the individual, multifaceted personality of a student or a class, he said. That's something that comes with the experience of being in the classroom and interacting with students. It requires the ability and flexibility to create and alter lesson plans as needed to match student needs, he's found.
"I see the idea of having more opportunity in the classroom to be of phenomenal benefit to prospective teachers. It's the icing on the cake," said Rishton.
His admiration for the competent, professional abilities of veteran teachers has been reinforced, and he's willing to pay the price to join their ranks.