November 1, 2013

Musings of a Student Teacher - Part II

Oh, how bleak things looked to me when I last wrote about teaching!

I'll admit it: I was completely overwhelmed and nervous about everything. The previous two posts have been quite the Debbie Downers, so I felt that I needed to write a positive one to balance things out.  Let me be 100% honest with you.

I love love love teaching.

Really, I do! I do not love the hours, nor do I love how exhausted and ragged I feel. My kids, though... they make it all worth it.



I teach sophomores - five sections of pre-AP and one section of on-level. There are very few behavioral issues, which definitely makes my life easier, but they are also just really great kids in general.

The students have become quite comfortable with me, especially over the past month; I have been able to teach all day several times since pretty early on in the year. I have even had the classroom to myself all day at least three times when my mentor teacher had to take some personal days... and while I was utterly deflated and worthless by the end of the day, I didn't die! And nothing went majorly wrong! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

~

I really have so many things to say, and I could write an entry after every day of teaching if time allowed, but there is no good way to summarize my experiences in a few solid paragraphs. But let me say this - the things that my students say to me are internalized, for better or worse. This week, those statements have all been positive.

One of my students asked me on Tuesday if I would be in their classroom next semester. I replied that I would not. She seemed so sad when I said that, so I quickly interjected that I would love to visit from time to time (which is the absolute truth). I'm going to miss my kids coming in and telling me about their lives; earlier in the semester, this same student charged into the classroom, and she quickly found me:
"Mrs. Womack, I just bombed my pre-AP history test. Like, it was really, really bad. I'm pretty sure that I failed. I know I failed."
I talked to her about how it felt, and reassured her that I know plenty about bombing exams. She is one of my brightest, most involved and caring students. She is going to do some amazing things in the years to come.

Sometimes my students will write itty bitty notes to me on their DGP (Daily Grammar Practice) homework that I grade first thing. I have had several students write on their homework, next to the current assignment where I write their score, the date and "my birthday!" in the margins. They just want me to wish them a happy birthday, and I take oh so much joy in giving them that teeny bit of affirmation in that moment.

I had one student tell me this week after changing his DGP score, "You're not fake! You're real!" Oh, how my heart swelled as he said that! I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my relationship with this student has changed his attitude about learning in our class. He used to be checked out and unwilling to talk, but now he does his homework and is willing to sometimes participate in class discussions. I try very hard to be "real" with my students, to show them that I am not just a person standing in front of the class assigning them loads of work for no good reason. I want them to know that. I want them to know that I care, because they are real, too.

Another one of my students asked me this week if I would be with them next semester. When I said no, another student chimed in:
"When will you get to be a real teacher?"
"After I graduate."
"When is that?"
"December 14th!"
"So, will you teach here?"
"I would love to teach here! There just has to be a job opening, but I would love to stay here."
"You should be the AP English III teacher. Then you would have us."
What he was really saying was that he wanted me to be his teacher next year, because AP English III is where most of my pre-AP kids will be headed. Of course, I told him that I would absolutely love that. First of all, I would looooove to have any of my students again - and I truly mean that, even the ones that are ridiculously frustrating. Second (and I told him this), American Lit is my baby. That is my dream job. I would LOVE to teach that to these kids. What a joy that would be!

~

While it is true that I am still completely overwhelmed and feel as though I am barely keeping my head above water, my experiences during student teaching could be so much worse... SO much worse. It has been a wonderful experience overall. My mentor teacher is knowledgeable, supportive, encouraging, willing to let me take the reigns on so many things, and just awesome in general. My kids - and, yes, they are now my children - have my heart. I truly treasure them, and I just wish that I had more time to just get to know them.

And honestly, I will definitely cry on December 10th when I will be with my kids for the last time. I'm getting choked up even thinking about it.

Sigh. I guess this teaching gig really is what I am supposed to do. The literature sucked me in, my amazing English Ed department chair kindled my desire to be in education, and the kids have put the shackles on me - hand and foot. And as torturous as it can be at times, I really don't want to get out.

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