Looking back, Daniel Truffa knew exactly what to expect as a student-teacher at Shepard High School: That any day could provide great reward, while the next could riddle him.
And, indeed, that’s precisely what happened.
Truffa, a St. Xavier University senior who graduated from Stagg High School, adapted on the fly to the myriad challenges that every student-teacher encounters.
“Student teaching, although very time consuming and stressful, is absolutely the most rewarding and meaningful experience I have had in my life so far,” he said.
Perhaps more than most careers, college provides only so much preparation for teaching. Truffa found some revelation in working with teenagers.
“Teaching, at least from my perspective, is a difficult thing to grasp in a class or through observation. Sure you learn a lot in (courses), but until you get in front of a class and actually start teaching, you never really have a solid understanding of what it is,” he said.
Memories of the first day remain clear for Truffa.
“My feelings were rather mixed. There were the obvious nerves and the butterflies in my stomach, all of the things that usually come with a new experience such as this,” Truffa said.
Immediately, Truffa learned that teaching high school does not always follow a script.
“The day started off a little rocky, but by the end of it I was back to my usual self, brimming with confidence,” Truffa said. “Now, that confidence would be shaken from time to time as the semester went along, as I assume it would with any student teacher, but my motto has always been to push ahead; to make the next day better than the last.”
While many people might think that managing teenagers would represent the most difficult aspect of student teaching, Truffa cited the amount of work.
“The biggest challenge was always keeping up with the work load. Student teaching, coaching speech, going to class, and grading tend to consume a lot of
hours. As the semester goes on though, you become more accustomed to the work load and are able to adjust accordingly,” he said.
Truffa’s best moment, ironically, arose from failure. And it’s a lesson in perseverance he can share with students in the years ahead.
“A lesson I had planned hadn’t gone as well as I had hoped. My confidence was beginning to falter,” Truffa said.
Jeff Vazzana, the cooperating English teacher from Shepard who served as a mentor during fall semester, took him to lunch.
“He told me something that really helped me. He said that all teachers have bad lessons from time to time; the key is being able to fix your mistakes and learn from them,” Truffa said.
As soon as they returned from lunch, Truffa put the wisdom to use.
“I took that advice into the rest of my day, changed my lesson plan slightly, and delivered the lesson I had intended for my remaining classes. What was left of the day went fantastic, and a day that started off very bleak, ended with a glimmer of hope,” he said.