I've turned into a walking cliche, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.
For those of you not fully stepped in my life, I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you that I started student teaching this week. It's the culmination of my undergraduate career, and I'm pretty excited about it. It's hard not to be excited about something that you've been looking forward to and working toward for the last four years. I've had countless hours of practice in my classes, and I finally get a chance to try things out in a real classroom setting.
As I suited up on Tuesday morning and headed to my school, though, a wave of uncertainty came over me. This is nothing new for me; every time I go through a major change in my life, I have nagging doubts telling me that maybe this isn't the right thing after all, and wouldn't I rather be at home in front of my switch-controlled fire with a cup of hot chocolate and my copy of Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. (In case you're wondering, the answer to that question is always yes. It's true for nearly everything in my life, though.) I plugged along the snowy road to Timpview High, though, and marched resolutely into my class.
After two days, I'm starting to wonder if those nagging doubts didn't have a point, after all.
The classroom setting is completely different than anything I'd imagined it would be. I'd forgotten what it was like to be in a high school. There are things that I remember with fondness, like carrying around a planner with your school colors and mascot on the front and with pointless inspirational platitudes scattered within (like "be a safe haven for thosee in need of security. The return will be substantial," which I found by literally opening to a random page). I remember having classes that end at bizarre times (like 11.21 and 1.53) because classes last 52 minutes and your passing period is six, not five. I remember making a lunch every day and putting it in the fridge the night before so the sandwich wouldn't get all stale. What I didn't remember, though, was the fact that students try to dodge learning at every chance they get. Everyone told me that kids try to listen to iPods and send text messages during classes. I didn't realize that it was exactly as prevalent as they said it would be. I don't think I've been in a single class that didn't have a kid either surreptitiously (or so they thought) listening to an iPod by running the cord up their sleeve and putting their hand to their ear in what they clearly thought was an innocent manner or hiding their cell phone in their lap to send a clandestine text message or seven. I didn't realize how easy it is for a class or thirty students to get off track. I didn't realize that as a student teacher, the students immediately recognize that I'm not the same as their regular teacher and treat me as such.
I came home from school on Wednesday completely dejected and ready to quit. I'd been told that student teaching was hard, but after a day like that, I was ready to be done. Forget the last three and a half years. Forget all the work I put into this. Forget all of the education classes full of emotional and feel-good tripe that I endured. I was ready to switch majors and find something else that worked.
Yet that same day at work, I found myself thinking about my kids. I couldn't stop. I still have some of them pop into my head, and I haven't even been to class today. (Timpview had teacher inservices today, and they only lasted for about thirty minutes. Who knew teachers wanted to get out of school as much as students did?) I sat there, sweeping and mopping, thinking about all of the students I work with - even the ones that were driving me crazy by listening to iPods and playing on cell phones. Some of them were even playing StarCraft on the school computers. Whose idea was it to install StarCraft on school computers, anyway? It was just strange for me to be thinking about these kids, many of whom I'd only known for a couple of days. I've heard countless tales of teachers saying that their pay was awful and the school system was horrid but that they stuck with the profession because they loved their students so much.
And now here I am, doing and saying the exact same thing. I'm at a loss to explain it. I'm a cliche - something I've spent my whole life trying not to be. And strangely enough, I don't mind it at all.