yet another goodbye...
At the beginning of this year, I felt sure of one thing: I wanted to be a teacher. I was raised by a mother who taught in the Sudbury Catholic elementary system for 35 years, retiring last June. I grew up around teachers, listening to stories about students and the politics that affect the education system. I taught piano to young children during high school, and tutored some children during university, and had even supply taught for a school in the
My first three practice teaching placements were in the primary grades; grade 3, a grade 1 / 2 split, and a Junior Kindergarten placement. Each class was most well-behaved and easy to work with, causing few problems, and allowing me to achieve many great teachable moments, and develop excellent rapports with teachers and students alike. Hours were spent taking observation notes, writing lesson plans and rubrics, unit plans, and brainstorming for ideas to make my students’ learning experience as enjoyable and interesting as possible. There were many positive experiences during this year: lessons going really well, making bulletin boards, notes sent home, extracurricular events, new gym activities, new songs, storytelling, and the list goes on.
My last group of students (30 in all) appeared at first to be a normal, spirited group of children. Quickly, this impression changed as background stories began to emerge: a mother that ran off, leaving a boy with his father and 4 brothers, a mother that passed away, a close family friend who passed away, students in foster care, and the list went on. Some of the backgrounds these students came from were so difficult and clearly had an impact on their performance at school.
Suddenly, my visions of working with 30 students and having fun with all sorts of great activities planned were replaced with the knowledge that most of my time was going to be spent just trying to manage the few in the class who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – get their work done. Staying in at recess, missing gym, having extra homework, lectures on responsibility – these became the reality of each day. At first, I felt regretful, and even guilty about having to be hard on these students – who are still children after all – but have now realized that they need the structure and discipline too. Surprisingly, the class quickly treated me with just as much respect as they treated my associate teacher. They realized that I was a tough but fair teacher who genuinely cared about their learning, and most of them worked hard to do what was expected of them.
Looking back on the school year, I feel like I have come a very long way. My lesson plans used to take hours to write, and now they take less than a half hour. I now have experienced consistently successful classroom management, and feel confident that I would be able to handle a class of students on my own. In addition, I would be able to develop effective long range plans (more than just units), but still be able to be flexible in my teaching. I learned that teachers often have to teach themselves before being able to teach their students, and that a back up plan is a must for any lesson.
Just like many other people who enter teacher’s college, I started the year with great expectations and looked forward to building relationships with students, having fun, and teaching them interesting things. I still look forward to all of these things, but finally understand that life often interferes with them. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to always be aware of where my students are coming from, and accommodate their individual needs as much as possible while still expecting the same effort and behavior from each member of the class. The profession I have chosen is not an easy one. There will be days when I don’t like my students and feel completely frustrated with a day not going anywhere near as planned. Sometimes there will be trouble with families, or something tragic will happen, or maybe I will be just having a bad day. In spite of all of these things – and maybe sometimes because of them – I choose to be a teacher. I accept the good things and the bad things because I have been privileged to experience some of each, and have tried my best to learn from everything that has happened so far. I believe more strongly than ever that a life dedicated to learning is one well spent.