Educational Forays

Jan Andrea
EDUC 900: Internship
11 September 1997
Journal Reflection #1

All my life, I've wanted nothing but teaching as a career. My father is a professor; I have aunts, uncles, and cousins who teach; even my grandfather was a history teacher for a while. I was always closer to my teachers than my peers when I was in grade school, even on into high school. I've been inspired by my professors; my teachers have been my friends and mentors for as long as I can remember. Everyone I know has told me for years that I will be a great educator. I've been well-prepared by the teacher education program at UNH, through the 4.5 years of my undergraduate degree and into the 1.5 of my graduate studies. And yet, I have never been more terrified of a situation than I was in the days preceeding my first day of school at ORMS. I've been a student for so long that it has really become my element -- I am perfectly comfortable sitting and taking notes, exploring subjects in the laboratory, and interacting with my professors. And I've been looking at teaching as a goal for so long that I think it ceased to seem like a reality, and seemed more like some far-away mirage -- I'd get there eventually, but there was always time for another class. But last Tuesday night... suddenly it was right there in front of me: the first day of the rest of my life, and it scared the pants off me! I didn't sleep that night, instead drifting in and out of visions of catastrophe and humiliation....

But instead, it's been wonderful! True, I'm just getting my feet wet at this point -- helping out with the classes, giving an occasional lesson and a lot of feedback -- but more to the point, I really love "my" kids, and while I'm in school, I can think of no place I'd rather be! This has been the evolution of the past week -- for the first couple of days, I pined for the laboratory at UNH where I spent the summer working: everything was so calm and predicable there, and I knew exactly where I stood at all times. Now, I still remember the lab with more than a little nostalgia, but I'm getting to the point that I think I would be bored there (just as my husband assured me would be the case). While I'm still not certain that I can give up enough of my personal freedom to teach permanently, I seem to be heading in that direction, as I realize that I don't necessarily have to live the way my cooperating teacher does, but that I can take things a little more sanguinely, make my style a little less hectic, and still be a good teacher. Of course, this is still far ahead of where I am now, but my life has been dominated by The Future for a long time now, and I think it may be time to let myself concentrate on The Present for now.

My journal of the last few days is dotted with questions large and small: "How do we keep the kids on-task and quiet?" "How can we help the students strike a balance between seeing the forest and the trees?" "With what impression is this lesson leaving them?" "How do I keep from laughing when they do seventh-grade things?" "Can I give enough of my life to take this as my profession? Can I teach and still put my husband and future family first in my life?" "Are the students getting from me what I can give to help them learn?" It's really been an exercise in question marks. Exclamation points, as well: "This activity becomes utter chaos!!" "These kids so remind me of my peers and me when I was their age!" "It's nice to see how seriously they're taking this discussion!" "Yea! They like science!!!"

More than all that, though, I find myself wondering what exactly I should be looking for. I have a page of notes for each day, yet I can't judge for myself whether these are the things that will be important to study. What clues are they giving me that I don't know how to look for? What might I be learning from them that just slips by me, as I look at something else instead? And how do I avoid the temptation to play with them -- I want to be the 13-year-old again, do the fun activities and see science again for the first time the way that they are, and it's hard not to fall into that trap; I really have to fight it and remember for what I am here. And then I find myself thinking, I have all year to become a teacher... why not relax a little, just for five minutes here and there, and allow myself the escape of coloring that picture, playing with those physics toys, laughing at the students' jokes as though I didn't have to worry about their content. I'm sure it will become easier with time, easier to sort out when to be Mrs. Andrea and when to be Jan, easier to go between them and still be recognized as "teacher." After all, it's only been a week :)

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