It's been awhile since I've written about school.
There's a few reasons for that. The main reason is that in January I got a student teacher. She is from a nearby college and I am the one designated to show her the way in all things teacher-y. The first couple of weeks she just observed me teach. In mid January she took over my senior classes and at the beginning of February she began teaching half of my junior class. (I continued to teach half for half the class time to do ACT prep stuff with them- all juniors in the school are taking the test on March 4) Next week she will take over the rest of the junior class and I will be left solely to teach my AP Lit class until mid April when I'll take over all the classes again.
In a lot of ways it has been so nice to have a student teacher. To start with, she is very on top of things so it makes it not too difficult for me. I have heard horror stories of student teacher experiences but I got a bright, capable girl who doesn't miss a beat. It has been nice as I have been pregnant to not have to go full throttle all day every day and it has allowed me time to really focus on and prepare my AP class. Their test is the first week of May and as the date approaches, I am starting to feel the pressure more and more. They are such a great group of students and I really want them to just nail the thing, so it has been so awesome to have that extra time to really get their lessons prepared and give adequate feedback on their essays. It's the first time all year that I have felt on top of the AP class and like, "I can do this."
It has also been nice because it has allowed me extra time to blog and to work on the book I have been writing. I will be honest though, I have about half the free time I thought I would. I had these visions that the student teacher would come, and I would be as free as the wind with three months off. Doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted as long as I was in the confines of the school. It hasn't quite been that way. It's a lot of observation, coaching, reflection, dealing with discipline problems, etc. When you first start teaching there's so many little situations that you face that you have no idea how to handle. For example, a kid called her a "loser" the other day when she handed out a writing assignment. I mean, come on, it was too much homework, and any time I have too much homework I totally call my teacher a loser! It's the normal thing to do, isn't it? That’s something they just don’t prepare you for in your classroom management class--
“Alright, a student calls you a loser in front of the rest of the class, what do you do?”
“A student says a racist remark to the Hispanic sitting next to him in the middle of class, what do you do?”
“A student copies his essay word for word from sparknotes that he pulled from his phone while sneaking it under his desk from the back row. What do you do?”
“A student plagiarizes her essay and when you tell her she won’t be receiving credit she genuinely acts like she had no idea it was copied, and when you show her the part that was copied she replies that HER MOM wrote that paragraph. What do you do... and what do you say to her mom?!?”
“A kid says he can’t hand in his notebook because it was in his dad’s truck and the dad left the family this weekend and the kid has no idea when he’s coming back and he's telling you he has tears in his eyes. What do you do?!”
No, these are not conversations that you have in a two credit hour classroom management class. These are the things you have to figure out right on the fly- that second, that spot- in front of forty 17 year olds wondering how their teacher will respond. No time to think, just act. You’ve gotta have a solution ready for everything and in the beginning the situations catch you off guard. You don’t know what to do because you’ve never handled that before. I remember those beginning days, how exhausted I felt all the time, how stretched past my limits, how vulnerable, and sometimes how manipulated. My student teacher keeps saying to me, “I have just always given people respect and expected them to give it back to me, but that doesn’t work here. I'm nice and people are nice back.” Nope, that’s not the way it works here at all. High school’s a freaking jungle. You can hope they’ll give you respect, and if they don’t then you can beg for it, and if that doesn’t work then you demand it or kick them out of your class.
The interesting thing about having a student teacher is that it has helped me to feel more confident in my own abilities, and to realize how much I do already know and can do. Day by day in a high school you don’t realize how much you have picked up until you realize that you can answer any question a college student has for you about teaching and you can see the overwhelmed (and sometimes terrified) look in their eyes and say “Wow, that was me four years ago. I guess I have learned something here after all these days of doing this.”
It will be interesting to see what happens for me and teaching next year. My hope is to go part time, meaning I would teach every other day. I don’t know how I will be when I have a baby. Some people act like it will change everything about me, and I won’t even want to go to work, that it will be so hard to leave the baby every day and I’ll just want to stay home with my kid instead of work. Others act like I will love the adult time and that I shouldn’t give up teaching- that I will regret it if I do and go crazy of boredom. I don’t know. I do know myself well enough to know that I go crazy when I’m in the house all day, and when I go more than three hours without talking to someone I about lose my mind. I don’t know that I could handle full time teaching- I think it would be extremely tough to be away from my child that much but at the same time- but then maybe I would love it? I feel like there is a weird, self righteous debate that rages on over working moms and SAHMs and I just want to be both. You know. Have my cake and eat it too.
My other worry right now is that I don’t know if the AP Literature class will carry for next year. When I started here I was asked to teach the AP Lit class with only 8 students in it. For next year we have 15 signed up, but my vice principal told me they would be looking to drop any classes that didn’t have at least 20-25 students registered to take it. We shall see. It will be very frustrating and sad for me to not teach it next year after all the work I have put into getting it together, but that’s sometimes the way it goes at a public high school. You teach what they need you to teach, not always what you want to teach. My first year teaching I busted my butt creating a curriculum for creative writing only to lose the class the next year to a new teacher who came in who had a master’s degree in creative writing. Obviously he was more qualified to teach the class, but I couldn’t help but feel frustrated at the hours I had put into the class to have it swiped from me like that. I suppose in a way I am bracing myself for that to happen with AP Lit. If it does, though, I’ll try to be a big girl about it and take it like a champ. I'll teach all regular seniors and enjoy the hell out of it.