Finding Confidence and Realizing There is Never Enough Time

Time

This past week has been a pleasant shift for me. I am feeling more efficient, more organized, and more confident. These feelings mean that, even though I struggle with things and have lessons that don’t go great, I am putting my energy into growing and learning rather than feeling bad about myself. Getting to this point has depended on many things. I am the type of person that needs quite a bit of time to fully warm up to new things; I think I’m finally there. I have a great support team in my cooperating teachers and faculty adviser. They make me feel safe to try things, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to hear the advice they give so that I can improve. Lastly, I think I have gained a better understanding of the whole process of designing a unit, finding ways to help students reach the learning goals, and reflecting on the process.

I still have fears that I’m not moving quick enough or that I will let my students down. At the end of the day, I know I’m giving it my all. I have to believe that that’s coming through. I have to believe that the progress I feel I’m making, is coming through. I hope that this new found peace continues and that I can grow even more quickly in this second half of internship. I believe the stumbling and nervousness that I felt in the first part of internship were necessary to go through.

As I reflect and consider what’s ahead of me, I feel slightly panicked at the thought of all of the content I am running out of time to get through. My first unit went over the original time allotment and I worry that Hamlet will too. I just hope it’s not by too much. My brain is going crazy trying to think about where I will be able to fit in all of the things I need to teach my students. And I think it will be many tries before I am able to get everything done in good time. I think time is a huge lesson. How can I crunch everything together, make it cohesive, make it interesting, and make it beneficial for students to learn? I think this will be the question I ask myself throughout my career.

Keep It Simple

Paper stackThese past weeks I have been feeling like the my goals have been foggy. I’ve been trying to make my goals for the unit and each lesson explicit, but it was only at the end of this week that I truly understood where I was going astray. I’ve been putting too much on my plate, I’ve been trying to connect to many ideas, and as a result, I’ve been lacking clarity. My new goal is to strip my ideas down and keep it simple.

I will be focusing on one goal and one big idea at a time. My cooperating teacher gave me the advice of setting three main goals and sticking to them. I think this will help with revising my plans for teaching Hamlet. I hope that this results in better and more thorough teaching on my part, as well as better learning for the students. I have been sensing confusion among my students, at times.

The other way that I would like to practice keeping things simple is too not get hung up on reinventing the wheel. One of the challenges I’ve been facing is making everything from scratch. I have to make the materials that students will use to guide their learning, materials to assess, and to differentiate the materials so I am not leaving the same learners out all of the time. This has been somewhat tiring. I have realized that everything can’t be a masterpiece and maybe for where I am right now some of the worksheets can be very simple.

I look forward to practicing keeping things simple in the next week’s activities. I will be looking to see the difference it makes in my students learning, in my energy levels, and the clarity of my vision. I am always searching for tips, advice, and information that can help me grow. As a new teacher the words of other teachers is something I’m constantly searching out, so please leave a comment.

Learning How to be Okay with not being Okay

…But I’m learning a lot.

I am. But I’m also bombarded with uncertainty, insecurity, and nervousness throughout my learning journey. There is a lot of work that goes into everyday. I’m adjusting and preparing resources for daily lessons and trying to figure out Hamlet at the same time. The best part of this journey is that I’m willing to fight for it, because it’s all I’ve ever wanted out of a career. The people make me happy to be where I am. However, I still wake up every morning afraid I’m not good enough.

This week, the most important target I’ve been working on is being dynamic and giving energy in the classroom to help build engagement. My confidence and energy waned as I was allowing myself to be consumed by negative thoughts. The first class that I actively tried to be positive and bring energy, was an amazing experience and made me feel better in just 55 minutes.

In addition to my classroom experience, the communications outside of the classroom have made a huge difference for me as well. The google community for English majors has been the greatest support system I could have asked for. The best thing for people going through difficult time, is to know that you’re not alone. The google community does that, but is also a space to gather ideas to help with my learning. That is also, why I wanted to include my mental state and emotional experience in this blog reflection. I want other interns to know that I will not be silent, so that they know that if they’re getting down on themselves they’re not alone.

Finally, I have taken this quote (shared by a fellow intern) to heart. I am only in the first month of a lifelong journey. There will be many failures and successes to come. As I learn, I will make my teaching better. Right now, I can only be my best self. This hit home after reading one of my students journal responses. The prompt asked them to consider how they’re reading of a story changed from when they read it with the reader response lens and then when they read it with multiple lenses (gender, social class, and postcolonial). The student said that he had reflected more on his thinking than the ideas in the stories. He said that he was questioning his judgement and, more or less, becoming more critical of common sense ideas. Lastly, he said that because of this, he was enjoying English class for the first time. How could I be so negative, when this was happening for some of my students? I might not be a master teacher, but I care and I can be there and do my best. From this moment it will be deep breaths in and out, long nights planning, but satisfaction knowing that learning is going on (on both sides).

… We’re learning a lot. AND we’re afraid sometimes. That’s life. That’s okay.

Taking Care of Myself During Internship

the screamI am one month into my internship. I am being challenged and rewarded in so many ways everyday. I have worked out my first evaluation with my coop and it has given me specific areas to work at, which I am thankful to have. My targets are better for it and I think my growth will be greater as well. I am also coming to the end of my first unit. I have been reflective throughout and will write blog posts on specific reflections, but for this blog post I wanted to be reflective on my feelings and overall health. Everything is so fast paced that it can be difficult to think everything through and prepare myself the way I wish I could.

First of all, people aren’t kidding when they say schools are full of germs and thus people who work in them often get sick. I have been fighting a flu of some sort since the beginning of the school year. It sucks the energy out of me and makes the dreaded energy drinks necessary when I need to plan, but feel the need to nap. Fortunately, I have been healthy enough not to have to miss any school. I really do not enjoy making sub plans or coming back to class and not knowing where my students are at. Hopefully, I am able to stay strong enough to keep this up.

There is another illness I have been facing and working to remain healthy against. And the liminal space I currently occupy as an intern has made this a challenge for me as well. My anxiety continues to be a daily struggle, but one I have been able to stay strong against. However, there are days when my thoughts get the better of me and I have to work to remind myself that being overly critical of myself is not helpful. I work hard to think constructively, because that is all I can do with my “failures” or “weaknesses.”

Overall, I am thankful that I have a strong support system and many ways to find help when I need advice on ways to improve my teaching. While, learning and teaching are the main focus of internship. Taking care of myself is also necessary if I want to be able to be successful. I can do little with a tired mind, so I am doing what I can when I can to be proactive in staying healthy.

Internship – Coming Back to Class After Being Away

This past week of internship was greatly influenced by the three school days I was away for the internship seminar. By Monday it had been five days since I had seen my students. I wasn’t sure what the substitute had been able to get through and I wasn’t sure how my class received the work I assigned over the period of time I was away. This resulted in me feeling a discomforting sense of uncertainty throughout the week.

On Monday, I felt the least prepared I have felt so far. My anxiety had spiked and my confidence was shaky. I began the lesson asking my students what they had done and what they were uncertain of. I went over the two readings they had done and gave them class time to work on the assignments after going over them as well.

In the following days, I introduced our final literary lens – the postcolonial lens. I gave students notes and had them read the poem “Sure You Can Ask Me A Personal Question” by Diane Burns. This process went alright, but I still wanted to introduce Treaty Education and I felt as if my class still wasn’t fully getting colonialism and the importance of postcolonialism/decolonization in our society. I had my students watch part of “We Were Children” to foster a human understanding of what colonialism meant to real people and feel the injustice in it, so that they could see how it shapes our current society. I was starting to feel better after these lessons, as I had gotten my students to make deep connections.

By the end of the week, I was in great need of a break. All of my uneasiness set of by the usual worries, but also the uncertainty of having been out of the classroom for three classes had worn me out. The weekend has been a necessary break to recuperate and time to plan (an activity that never ends). In the next week, I hope to feel more secure in my plans. As I wind my first unit down, I look forward to the opportunity to try to work in some of my reflections on what worked and what didn’t in my next unit.

Two Weeks into Internship

This Friday is the end of my second week of teaching, during my internship. I feel an odd mixture of comfortable and stressed. I have been lucky to find myself interning at a school that I immediately felt comfortable in and with a cooperating teacher that I feel comfortable interning with. I also feel uncertain sometimes and under-prepared to jump into teaching this unit. However, I think that this experience is the best, and possibly the only way, to learn how to create and carry out a solid unit plan.

I have started my internship teaching an ELA B30 class. I have 22 students, the small size is helpful to get my feet wet in a manageable way, and for the most part they are receptive to the work that I have been trying to do with them. I opened up the semester with a writing assignment. I had my students write me a letter inquiring into my class. Reading them was so rewarding and gave me insight into what they want out of their education. I would do this assignment again. I found it more telling than the questionnaire I had them fill out. The other activity I am happy to be working on is using critical lenses to read course texts. Right now my students are reading short stories and poems, but we will also be reading Hamlet through a variety of lenses. I only wish it wasn’t taking me so long. I am constantly finding that I cannot go through material as fast as I originally thought.

As a teacher, I have already learned so much. I have learned that there really is never enough time to cover everything I want to. I have learned to get creative when it comes to creating assignments that fulfill curriculum requirements. When you have texts to get through, as well as 13 different writing forms, you have to figure out efficient ways to get work done. I have learned to be more organized. I have learned and practiced adjusting my instructional strategies. Finally, I have learned that I love group work as a way to get fruitful discussion going.

I am frustrated because I have a lot of theories and ideas that I would love to incorporate into my classroom, but will not be able to. Moreover, there are times I find my planning background to be much weaker than my theory background. I know what I want, but I have less skills to reach my goals. I am working on that everyday, but I wish I could have had more time as a student to work on those skills. I had a good discussion with my cooperating teacher, when she said that it takes time to get a clear sense of your vision and how everything will come together to reach your end goal. I have so many things I want to do, but right now I need to work on organizing what I need from the resources I’m giving my class.

At the end of the day, this internship is definitely quite a challenge. It is a challenge that I am up to and willing to fight for. I only hope that I can pick everything up as fast as I am required to and that I can feel more confident in my abilities as time goes on.

Making Connections and Building Rapport

As I will soon be entering into my internship, I’ve been considering rapport and classroom management. I’ve been thinking about the human connection and interaction part of education that can get lost in some discussions about educational theories and teaching methods. I find myself getting caught up in overthinking unit and lesson planning, but lately I’ve been thinking about those first moments. I’ve been thinking about how to make meaningful connections and build the kind of classroom rapport that will help with classroom management and build the learning environment I desire.

To do so, I believe I will need to take some risks. I can be a shy and introverted person, but I can also be an emotional and passionate person. I hope to find a balance that allows my students to see and trust me as their teacher. I wrote a blog post, “Considering Privilege as an Educator,” in which I put myself ‘out there’ more than I had been previously comfortable doing. It was the most rewarding post I’ve written, because I was being honest and I was making connections as an individual. When I allowed myself to be completely honest, I was able to make the connections between theory and my personal experiences.

As a high school student, I lived with some degree of anxiety almost constantly. In my last two years, I was often sick to my stomach before I left for school and there were days I stayed home because the anxiety was too much. Despite being overwhelmed, I was able to be very successful as a student. Despite being frequently consumed by worry, I was able to smile and hide this fact from my teachers and peers. I didn’t talk about my feelings and I never publicly let on that I was struggling. When I did voice my concern over grades or my fear of failure, others laughed it off, because it seemed an impossibility to them. This made talking about my anxiety difficult. Not only was I embarrassed that I was struggling this way, I felt ashamed. Worst of all, I felt as though I was alone in feeling that way. I have since opened up more, I have come to terms with myself, and I have found some ways to manage my anxiety. However, it has not completely left me either. I do view it as a part of my identity and I know that it informs aspects of my teacher identity as well.

I’m not quite sure what I want to do or say, but I want to be honest with my students. I want them to, as Chris Friend shared with me, in his comment on the aforementioned post, “think of me as a person who is sharing experience/insight with them, rather than a dictator sharing a curriculum with them.” I believe this connection will be important, as I know that I am not the only person who lives with anxiety. Chris Friend also reminded me to “think how vulnerable your students are when they submit their essays for grading” and how “they’ll appreciate a bit of equity” if I allow myself to be vulnerable.

In one of my (pre) pre-internship experiences, I had one of my grade eight student break down crying during what was supposed to be a fun and silly writing activity. I had asked the students to write any introductory sentence down, fold their paper and hand it to the next person who would write the second sentence down without knowing the first sentence. We were nearly done one round, when he raised his hand and I saw him in tears. He hadn’t written his introductory sentence down, because he didn’t know what he should write. It broke my heart and I knew exactly how he felt. I gave encouragement, the option to complete the activity, and helped him to do so when he told me he wanted to. I did my best then to comfort him, but I know now that what I really want is to be able to create openness in my classroom before something like this happens. I believe that if I can share my experiences as a person, my students will be able to connect with me and have trust in me.

My plan is to share my voice. I have the opportunity to make a difference and I will do everything I can to do so. The connections we make are incredibly important and will certainly set the tone of the learning environment. I will end with a question, because we can always learn from each other. How have you gone about building rapport with your students? How do you set up these conversations early in the year?