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Connie Vandermay/FOCUS Hailey Windels is halfway through her 12-week student teaching position at New York Mills Elementary School. Her mentor is first grade teacher Trudy Irons.

Learning things from first graders that she didn't learn in college

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Six weeks with 18 first graders has taught student teacher Hailey Windels more about teaching than any of her college classes could.

Windels, a student in the bachelors in education program at North Dakota State University, is currently a student teacher at New York Mills School.

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In an interview, she said once she was leading the classroom, she learned pretty quickly "what works and what doesn't," such as which students should be partnered for math time and where they should sit for group work.

The main thing she couldn't learn in her college courses, but learned fairly quickly through student teaching, is classroom control. Using techniques suggested by Trudy Irons, her mentor teacher, Windels was able to bring the class back to order within seconds. Techniques like shutting off the lights and counting backward bring students' attention to the teacher.

Windels is halfway done with her 12-week cycle of student teaching, and she has learned a lot about her own style, as well as about the kids themselves.

"At this age, they are really funny and really random, so it's hard not to laugh in the middle of teaching," said Windels.

For example, "One of the kids called me Mrs. Windex."

And some of the students couldn't believe that she isn't married with kids, because they assume all teachers have their own families.

Another thing Windels has learned about first graders is that teachers have to "show them at least once, if not a few times, what to do and how to do it." With this age group, she discovered, simply being told how to do something isn't enough.

Many things touched on in college became clearer to Windels once she saw them in practice. Daily Five reading and writing strategy for example, which is group work split into five different sections: word work, read to self, read to someone, work on writing skills and listen to reading.

Windels has also mastered her daily and weekly lesson plans.

Mentoring Windels was Irons' first opportunity to have a student teacher in her classroom, and though she didn't feel ready at first, she is thankful that she had the experience. Irons said it was good for her to watch other techniques in teaching.

Windels lives with her parents between Sebeka and NY Mills. Student teaching is her final step in earning her degree; she will graduate in December and hopes to hold both Minnesota and North Dakota teacher's licenses by next spring.

She plans to substitute teach until she finds her own classroom.

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