Though I have been keeping a daily journal for my own reflections, I have purposefully waited until the end of the pre-internship experience to post my reflection on wordpress. I wanted to make sure that I had time to put my thoughts into perspective and to think about my experiences as a whole. I know that when I begin my career as a teacher, I will be reflecting on myself on a daily basis and it will be harder to reflect on the whole experience so this is a luxury I wanted to take full advantage of.
My experience as a pre-intern can only be described as golden. I walked into the school with unspecific expectations and goals. I did not know what to expect and believed that I would not have as rich of an experience in a city school as I would in a small town school. I was absolutely wrong. My experience at this school and with my co-op was amazing. It was everything I had hoped for and everything I couldn’t even begin to imagine. I thought that I would not be comfortable in a larger school setting and that I would have trouble teaching students with rougher backgrounds and a harsh home life. I thought it would be difficult to connect with these students and to build relationships in such a short time as three weeks. Though I knew it was the goal of teachers to reach these kids, I did not think it would be as difficult as it was or that I would be successful. I thought that since this would be my first time actually in the school, the kids would “eat me alive,” as many people have teased me about. Thank goodness, I am apparently not very good at assuming things as I was completely wrong.
Not only was I able to teach subjects and topics I was passionate about, I was also given free reign over any of the co-ops classes I wanted and any other teachers’ class who was willing to let me in. I taught grade nine and ten English. Of course, in the beginning, the idea of teaching grade nines was daunting and I was nervous. Everyone says they are the toughest to teach since they are in that hormonal rebellious stage. However, I enjoyed my time with them. They helped me challenge my thinking about late marks, extensions, time management, teaching grammar, classroom management strategies, and keeping lessons fresh, interesting, and enjoyable. I also had the chance to teach First Nations content in a grade nine art class. This was a really cool experience because I taught most of these kids in English and had the chance to really build relationships with them. I saw these kids everyday, twice a day and really got to know them fairly well. The problem came in when I actually began to teach the art class because I had sat in on so many with them, that it was like I had almost become one of their friends. In English, they knew I was the teacher and that I meant business, but in art they weren’t too sure what to think.
The opportunity to teach in the art class was unique and rich because of the cross-curricular aspect. I taught three classes in Art focusing on treaties and First Nations sense of community and traditions. Each day the same student would ask me, “why are we learning about treaties and First Nations in art? Why can’t we just draw?” This is something that we discussed in many of my classes and though I expected the resistance, I was still floored by the obvious dislike and boredom most of the students expressed when they realized what we would be talking about. It made me sad that they were so against the idea of learning about a certain topic that they deemed belonging to another subject. The question for me became, how do I make these kids interested in what I have to share with them when they have been drilled by the school system that school has subject restrictions. Am I going to be fighting a constant battle against these lines we have created that separate each subject area?
This is one question that I struggled with throughout my pre-internship and am still wondering about. If it has been mandated that First Nations content be taught in every subject area since I was in high school dover eight years ago and students today are still resistant to the idea, am I fighting an uphill battle and can I possibly win? It makes me wonder, how many of my co-workers and current classmates will make a solid effort to teach this content in their classrooms and to help erase the boundaries between subject areas? As an English major, I know it is easier for me to incorporate cross-curricular content in my lessons, but I still think that every subject needs to be doing this. Cross curricular teaching, team teaching, and treaty content has not been drilled into our heads all these years for nothing. However, being in the school and hearing the students’ constant complaints and let’s face it, whining, makes me wonder who out there in the field is truly making the effort.
The last thing that really stuck with me throughout my pre-internship experience is something my advisor said to me. After my lesson one day, he sat me down and asked about my lesson and where I had come up with the set idea. He said that ingenuity and freshness makes teaching an experience for the students and the teacher. What really stood out to me though, was how he repeatedly asked my about my planning learning experiences, referring to my lesson planning. I loved this! As teachers, we are taking on the role of teaching young minds about society, social expectations, and learning in general. The moment we start planning our lessons we ask ourselves what we want our students to learn and get out of the lesson; we think about the big question and the essential questions and then we plan an experience that engages the students in the activity and their own learning. We are planning learning experiences. We are planning and co-ordinating opportunities for kids to experience something unique and valuable in their lives that will help them in their future. Honestly, after this conversation my mind was blown. He had spoon-fed me a new perspective on something that I considered work. With this new perspective, I found new drive and energy to make every lesson unique and memorable or as he would say an experience. Granted, this is what we are supposed to be doing anyways and simply calling lesson planning something else doesn’t change the fact, it just made me realize the importance of what I was doing. Sometimes you just need to hear from someone else what you are doing to truly understand the actual importance of what you are doing. I really liked his way of looking at lesson planning and honestly, it makes me even more excited to plan lessons, mini-units, units, and maybe even someday a curriculum.
Overall, it is safe for you to assume that I have had a wonderful experience at this school. Everyone who heard where I was interning at had nothing but crazy stories to share and lower expectations of what kind of students this school produced. However, I let them know the truth. When asked about the craziness that existed in those walls, I replied that any life worth living has to have a couple of crazy elements. When asked about students not completing their work on time, I replied that it only made me think about how I handle late assignments and extending deadlines. It’s been a challenge, but I am a firm believer that anything worth having is worth fighting for. I want to return to this school in the fall. It has been a wonderful place to learn who I am as a teacher and to practice teaching strategies and classroom management. I was sad to leave the school and my co-op, but I am even more excited to start internship in the fall and to begin teaching the following year. It took less than one day of teaching to fully understand that my place was in the classroom with young minds who teach me about myself and the world as much as I teach them.