There are times when learning is a messy, anxiety-provoking, even painful process. As a student-teacher, I am reminded of this every day.
tudent-teaching is hard to sum up. While the experience feels profoundly meaningful to me, it can also be agonizing. After being a full-time student myself for more than 15 years, taking on the role of teacher puts me on the flip side of what I once knew so well.
ack in August, when I started my graduate program in education, I couldn't wait to begin the full-time teaching component. While my courses were relevant and interesting, it was my biweekly experiences at New Mission High School that struck me as particularly powerful and immediate. I longed to zero in on the classroom work.
t is only in retrospect that I see how valuable that first semester was. By standing before the tenth-grade science class just twice a week, I could experience the school's culture without being completely immersed in it. I joked with kids during class and got to know them. I came to school, gave a lecture, then got feedback from my mentor. I left most of the grading, planning, and other paperwork to him. My limited duties freed me up to make sense of the experiences that came in a downpour every time I was there.
hen the second semester began, I was eager to see how things would unfold, particularly my relationships with students. It turned out my first week in the class without my mentor was rough. As I tried to articulate my agenda and carry through with the lessons I had carefully planned, my attention was pulled in nine different directions. I had to prioritize on the spot and take on challenges one at a time.
questioned myself constantly. Was the noise level too high? When should I give positive and negative feedback? Which kids were getting in the way of my teaching? And where did I put my binder? It suddenly seemed there was no longer time to be curious or philosophical only time enough to be anxious.
s the weeks went on, I felt myself learning and developing. Structuring assignments, planning lessons, and talking with kids were constant challenges, but in time I settled in and began developing ways to keep the different areas of teaching under control. Still, even after I improved my classroom management, organization, and methods of evaluating my students' work, many of the same problems and questions remained. I also began to consider another, larger question: Were they really learning?
t was clear that I was not the only one feeling the growing pains. The students were struggling, too, because I was forcing them to see me in a different way. I was no longer the fun, non-threatening, cartoon-like student-teacher. In their eyes, I had become the embodiment of the system. They responded by testing me in every way possible, including coming in late, questioning my teaching methods, and criticizing me on matters of fairness. It wasn't long before I saw that looking to my students to find out how I was doing was a dangerous thing. I learned to seek out and rely on other teachers for feedback and support.
hese days, I try to keep in mind that learning is sometimes a messy, anxiety-provoking, even painful process. I am not exempt from this. But by coming back into Room 305 after both the good days and bad, I hope to serve as an example of someone willing to face these struggles head-on. As I confront the daily problems, I rediscover my desire to understand, improve, and open doors for myself and others. My goal is to instill this desire in my students, to the point that they, too, will take on the challenge to learn.