Finding the right combination to unlock a student's mind motivates Dwyer


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Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2012, 1:20 pm
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By Todd Welvaert, twelvaert@qconline.com
MOLINE -- "We have a test today?"

The student's question sounds more hopeful than probing.

"Yup," student teacher Griffin Dwyer, said. At 21, he's not that much older than some of the Moline High School students he was teaching last fall.

"But I was sick Monday," the student replied.

"We talked about the test on Friday; you were here Friday," Mr. Dwyer said. The student hung his head and got out a pen.

"Have you been keeping up on the notes?" Mr. Dwyer asked. If the student took any comfort in his question, he kept it quiet. Mr. Dwyer handed him a test. "If you've been keeping up on the notes, you'll do fine."

Knowing when to push and when to let up, knowing when someone isn't getting it or when they just don't want to do the work, is something that doesn't come from a book. But Mr. Dwyer knows somewhere in each student lies the right mix of push and pull, coaxing and cajoling. It's like spinning the dial on a combination each day, and, now and again, when all the tumblers fall in line, what gets unlocked is what keeps him going.

"Yeah, that 'aha' moment where the light bulb goes on in a kid's head, yeah, I've seen it a couple times," he said. "It's what keeps you going, that split second where you realize. 'I reached this kid.He gets it.' "

Student teaching was the last step before the Arlington Heights native gets his teacher's certificate. The learning experience of providing a learning experience has given him an insight into what the job's about.

"The students come in with a different, unique personality each day," the Augustana College student said during a break between classes. "You've got to deal with each one differently -- some might be visual learners, some learn by taking their own notes, some have to study on their own, some are going to need more help. You have to accommodate everyone in the classroom; you've got to reach them all. You don't always get out at 3:30 p.m."

He taught history, world studies and world geography to four classes of freshmen and one class of juniors and seniors. One of the hardest things was fine-tuning his organization.

"You have to set up your lesson plans so you don't get overwhelmed; grading can be tedious and time consuming," he said. "You have to make sure each class is on task and moving through the material, but no one is getting left behind. It's a real balancing act. I'm pretty good at keeping organized, but that was tough."

It's a math lesson he learned early. If each class has 25 students, a two-page report means 50 pages of reading.

"It took me a while to get used to, but I'm getting better, looking at the long run and setting up lessons better," he said. "We had clinical at Augustana where we set up lessons -- that got me ready to plan ahead and have lesson plans. I don't know how I would be ready without it."

The transition from student to student teacher wasn't easy, but Mr. Dwyer said it's important to set the rules down fast.

"The kids push -- sometimes they push hard -- to see how much I would let them get away with," he said. "They know how to push your buttons. I think it's important to set the rules early, stay on them and after a while they come through."

He decided he wanted to be a teacher when he was in high school.

"I had a history teacher who kept things interesting and dynamic," Mr. Dwyer said. "I kind of had one of those 'aha' moments where things clicked. I also want to coach; I've been an athlete at Augustana and play sports. I'd love to teach and coach."

"I know this is the right path for me," he said. "I could have gone into business or something, but teaching makes me feel better than any other 9-to-5 job out there would."





Chasing the dream

Who: Griffin Dwyer, who completed his student teaching last fall at Moline High School

Quote: "I could have gone into business or something, but teaching makes me feel better than any other 9-to-5 job out there would."












 



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