The semester has finally ended: despite being absolutely insane (see here – although I confess that it got better), it went very quickly, and I was sad to see it end for many reasons. The experience with freshmen comp was incredibly rewarding: I got to do some real teaching in an environment that I enjoyed, with students that were reasonably responsive, under a professor who I highly respect and with whom I share a very similar philosophy of teaching and learning (she was my instructor for a Contemplation Writing course, and we are both very reflective individuals); I was introduced to content that challenged me intellectually while helping to teach it (see here and here); and perhaps most importantly, I was able to cultivate meaningful relationships with students and found that I could interact very meaningfully with them on several levels – academically as well as personally; as an experienced college student (maybe too experienced – I’ve been at this undergrad thing for too long), and also someone who has lived through enough to provide wisdom for living. There were a few instances where I had the opportunity to talk to small groups of students in a more personal, intimate setting, and I was able to help some of them understand better ways to approach life and their education so as not to be unnecessarily frustrated. I hope it helps them – I truly care about their success, and I hope to check back in with the instructor next semester to follow up and see how some of them (the ones she will have in class for the subsequent course in the program) have fared as writers and as individuals.
I have a little bit of hesitance now because this experience with the freshmen was so positive: I am aware that part of this was the fact that I was somewhere in between fellow student and instructor, a grey area where I could teach from a “higher” position (I evoked knowledge and intellectual authority, one might say) but still could be personable and approachable because of the shared experience of being a college student. (The fact that I’m far from a typical college student – married with kids – didn’t seem to affect this too much, surprisingly.) I know that this won’t be the case at the junior and senior high school levels, so I’m trying not to have that expectation. Still, it was great – and it makes me think that I might enjoy teaching college some day. We’ll have to see.
Now with this penultimate semester behind me, I can think ahead to student teaching. Unbelievably (at least to me), I start in just over two weeks, which means that I have some work to do putting together the materials for discipline and classroom management that my cooperating teacher has very strongly encouraged me to have ready for the first week of class. Because I’m stepping out a little more than I ever have during internships, I have to be very clear about my own expectations and separating myself from Mrs. Buske – I am now a teacher in my own right, and even though it is her classroom, she has made it clear to me that she wants me to teach as I would teach if it were my own. Like my cooperating teacher for the writing internship this past semester, she and I seem to share the same core educational philosophy, and I hope that will make the distinction between her teaching and mine relatively painless for her students. (As for what will occur in the one period of eighth grade language arts that I’ll be teaching – that’s anyone’s guess.)
I’m looking forward to this experience immensely. In a way, it will be sincerely life-changing: I have given my current employer notice that I will be leaving this job on the 30th (in the hopes of spending the 31st – the eve of my 25th birthday – doing something to celebrate the occasion), and so our family will be going through an interesting transition as a result. My very capable wife is going back to work, our eldest son will be starting an ECE special ed program when he turns three next month, and our youngest son will be going to a babysitter – that all on top of me starting my student teaching, which will mark the official start of my professional career in a sense. It will be the first time I will be out of the (paying) workforce for any substantial length of time (more than, say, a week or two) in six years, and it will also be the first time in that period that I will not be working nights as well. I am going to enjoy having time to spend with my kids in the evenings, most of all – I never get that now being a full-time student and a full-time employee. I will also be able to use some of my evenings to do things like pick up guitar and piano students (maybe) and to devote more time to the development of our music program at church. Additionally, I will be a writing fellow for an English professor, helping her with a digital project that she has submitted to a journal (so I might get to contribute to a published article!), and I will be continuing my freelance Web design/programming work for the internship that I started last May. (With preparation for teaching on top of that, I expect to be very busy still.)
I’m very hopeful. There are lots of things I don’t like about where I am in life, and although I have no expectations of this being a fix-all for the things that I am discontented with, I think that this is an opportunity for positive change. Whether or not it comes to be – we shall see.
If anyone has any comments on student teaching, feel free to comment or E-mail me.