Internship- the uphill battle

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Why would someone want to be a teacher? Kids are needy, and draining! I had a total of 65 students who I saw every day and was responsible for connecting with and ensuring they were learning the set curricular outcomes. This is madness- I felt like a soldier crawling through the mud being shot at. Everyday I was bombarded with comments/questions such as “I forgot my books today”; I was too busy to do my homework”; and “will this be for marks?”. Half of my students, although in high school, came to class without paper and a pencil! How was I supposed to teach my students when they were so disinterested in school and had their cell-phones glued to their hands! This very difficult task was only made more difficult when I had a minimum of 3 kids absent every day (who I am responsible for catching up).

The first month of internship was not too bad since I was only teaching one class (Physical Science 20). I was getting my feet wet and learning the all important knowledge of building student rapport and creating an engaging class atmosphere. While this was the easiest part of internship, it still was not easy. Trying to learn and work with 28 unique personalities was a feat I was anxious about. I can’t force my students to listen to me let alone like me; however, from pre-internship, I remembered it is much easier to work with my students instead of against them. Within the first month I became quite comfortable in front of my class and had come to enjoy teaching them in period 5 (which I learned is a time when all students are about done for the day and ready to go home). Things were looking up until…. BAM!

The next 2 months I quickly picked up 2 Science 10 classes and a Chem 30. My confidence in my abilities was taking a huge hit as I was never usually happy with how each day ended up going- there was something I either forgot to let my students know or was unable to check in/deal with some of my struggling students. I didn’t feel adequate or experienced enough to give my students everything they needed. My cooperating teacher once told me that as a teacher, only half of the time is actually spent teaching- I came to understand this quickly. The rest of the time I am tying up loose ends and dealing with my students’ problems/struggles. I quickly learned that mental health is a HUGE problem in schools- I had 3 students miss a week of class because of hospitalized anxiety. Students who are dealing with such intense issues are not concerned with learning things such as the makeup of an atom, and understandably. I could not help all of my students in the ways they needed help. Planning and teaching lessons was the easy part-juggling students, and their parents, diverse needs was a huge challenge. Although I am educated in Inclusive Ed. (which helped me reach a lot of my students with educational needs), it did not prepare me to take on the other needs present.

When I had started handing back classes I had more time to reflect on the events that happened during the day. While I was talking with some colleagues, one had told me of a simple, yet effective, quote: “big deal, little deal”. During my 3 week block it had seemed like everything that happened was a big deal- reflecting on this, I can look back to to some events that I had treated as a big deal when in fact they were little deals. Having 3 of my students need to leave early for basketball isn’t really a big deal… I realized that. While teaching is full of stress, I was creating more stress than I needed to by holding myself to a perfect standard. I heard another colleague say “you can only teach as well as you know how to, as you do more, you learn more”. The experience I had gained from internship has enabled me to grow in my teaching abilities. I am a much better teacher now than what I was at the beginning of internship.  The curriculum is the predicable part of teaching, you can plan for it and know what to expect. Students, however, bring so many unknowns- I had to learn to quickly think on my feet. It became a regular occurrence to do quick problem solving with things that were “little deals” (for example, a student forgetting to bring books to class).

While my students were the most stressful and draining part of teaching, they were also the best part. I absolutely love my students and looked forward to seeing them in class everyday. While their problems, whether family related or school related, complicated lessons, I always wanted to try and help them in any way I can. This was draining. It was exhausting. It equated to most of my stress while teaching. However, if I was able to help any of my students, even if it was in small ways, I felt like I had done my job. While I understand I will never be able to solve all of my students’ problems, I will be able to help them in small ways. For example, a student of mine was upset over some conflict at home- there was an exam scheduled for that day so, instead of making them write while their thoughts are somewhere else, I rescheduled the exam for the next day. Working with students ensures you get the best work out of them.

Teaching is draining and exhausting and hard work. Learning can be hard, and messy, and take more time than planned. However…knowing I have given hope to students who may have been overlooked is an amazing feeling. The excitement I get from seeing a struggling student ace an exam is way more important than the countless hours tutoring that student, giving them a chance. This feeling is only added to the already rewarding feeling of seeing the pride in that student’s face when they have been able to actually succeed in something. If working hard means giving a student a chance at success and increasing their confidence, then sign me up!

 

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