‘Terrifying, difficult, and thrilling’

Manju Connolly.

As a U of M undergraduate, Manju Connolly took part in the DirecTrack to Teaching program. It lets students explore teaching while taking prerequisite courses for the Master of Education and Initial Teaching License program, which includes a year of student-teaching experience.

Connolly, today a math teacher and M.Ed. candidate in the College of Education and Human Development, had two rewarding student-teaching experiences in Minneapolis Public Schools.

“Student teaching is challenging!” she says. “It is one thing to practice making lesson plans … it’s another thing to implement plans live with a group of students whose learning—and grade—is directly affected by your performance. The experience has been terrifying, difficult, and thrilling.”

As a student teacher, Connolly found that the collaborative approach she practiced with her teaching mentors solidified her interest in the profession.

“We each had an important place in our class discussions,” she says. Such an experience “is invaluable for getting new ideas, sharing practices, and having an ear for when you just want to vent to someone else who cares as much about teaching as you do.”

Most important was the chance to see how a collaborative group of teachers functions in a math department. “My teachers established early on that they would be direct with their feedback,” she says. “I felt comfortable suggesting tasks or tweaks for our lesson plans because my ideas are valued.”

Connolly is thankful to be able to rely on such support.

“Teaching should not be an individual or isolated profession,” she says. “I know I need a lot of moral and professional support in my first few years.”