Educational Forays

Jan Andrea
EDUC 900: Internship
9 October 1997
Journal Reflection #5

Thursday, 2 October. The chaos. I have to open this with a request: I know how busy you are on the days that you come to observe us, but please try to respect any schedules and such we have in place, or give some warning beforehand. On Monday, before the Merrowvista trip, I went to track down John's room to discuss the schedule with him. He wasn't there, and wouldn't be until Wednesday. I spoke with his cooperating teacher about Thursday, and she gave me his anticipated schedule and said that since he wasn't there, I would have first choice on times. I took this to mean that she would help him work around the schedule that I planned, which meshed nicely with her projected plans for him; and left for Merrowvista with at least a small feeling of preparation, since it seemed that you would be coming in on Tuesday (according to "rumor") to talk to Kim or John about the schedule.. However, when I returned on Thursday morning, I came in twenty minutes earlier than I normally would have, to do what needed to be done and still have time for our preconference, which I had requested to be 7:05-7:35, my only available time. Imagine my panic when the time came and went and you never showed up. Then I was halfway through an already hectic homebase when you came in; that honestly didn't help matters much, especially since I had been under the impression that you would be coming in for 2nd period, the eighth graders, and not for the seventh graders. Believe it or not, this was really a stressful time for me -- it was literally the first day I have ever been alone with a full day of classes, and your disregard for my previous plans and the fact that I didn't even get a warning didn't do a whole lot to help. It also didn't help that I waited on having lunch during my prep period because I thought that you were going to show up any minute, and then when you finally did come in, you wouldn't allow me to eat. If I'd had the presence of mind, I would have gotten my lunch anyway, but the fact is (as I tried to express to you), you make me very nervous, and I didn't want to further lower your already-low opinion of me. Suffice it to say, the manner in which you offered criticisms was not well-received either; by that time, all I was hearing was "you should have done it this way instead" rather than "you can learn from what could have gone better in this case." It was all I could do to keep from crying (right before my next class, no less), and I have to admit that the whole experience really ruined a day I had previously been looking forward to. What you didn't get to see was that the kids really did like the videos; and their compassion allowed me to salvage at least part of my self- esteem during the rest of the day, and the next day as well. I was able to learn from the experience despite everything that went wrong, and I feel strongly that's what was really important (besides the #1 priority of building a relationship with the students). I was also really thrown off by the sudden expectation that every single moment that day had to be instructionally sound; it was such a hastily-created lesson plan that I scarcely had time to breathe, let alone find a rationale for every minute of the videos; if I hadn't been there (and indeed, I hadn't planned on being there, having set those days up in my mind as a chance to visit the high school), they would have done the same thing anyway, but without presentation or closure. I know this all seems very negative, but it's things that I have to get off my chest if this is going to work at all. (Now back to your regularly scheduled journal summary.)

Saturday, 4 October. Apple Harvest Day in Dover. My mother and her boyfriend and my brother came up for the day, to visit my sister and I, and to take in the sights of A.H.D. Lo and behold, who do we run into but two of the eighth-grade girls, who come to say hello. I feel a little awkward with them, not entirely certain what to say to them or how long we should chat. They smile and I smile and we move on; after they leave, my mother says, "Did you see the way they looked at you? It's the way that students look at their teachers!" Seems like a pretty small observation, but it scares and delights me at the same time, both for the same reason. I'm the grown-up now; I can't get away with what I used to. (I don't yet know how to be the adult, though, having been a student for my entire life. Just another bucket in the wave of overwhelming; how long before I get swept under?)

Monday, 6 October. A realization. Suddenly it occurs to me: I've said I wanted to teach for practically all my life now, but I've never really figured out why. This is a bad time to realize this; how can I be a good teacher if I don't even know why I'm doing it, or what I hope to get out of it? Even now my reasons are pretty nebulous: I love science, and want to share my enthusiasm; I want the future voters of the country to be able to make informed decisions about their world; I want kids to be able to have some knowledge about the universe and all that's contained within it. Is that enough? How will this impact my teaching style? Is middle school really right for me, or have I chosen it simply because these kids haven't yet closed their minds to liking science, as they might by high school? What if teaching isn't for me at all, and I have to disappoint myself and all those who believe I can be a good teacher? These questions have been keeping me awake nights, and I'm not getting any closer to a solution. Meanwhile I feel like I'm going to have a nervous breakdown, but there doesn't seem to be anything I can do, since I can't afford to quit and don't know what else I can do.

Wednesday, 8 October. Such little words. During homebase this morning, I was looking for a cool science quote for the day, sitting at my desk. Sitting beside me on the futon were Brian and Seth, not outstanding students but good nonetheless. Brian says to Seth, looking at me, "Mrs. Andrea doesn't smile anymore." I'm crying right now thinking about that -- how could I have gotten so self-absorbed and frightened that I forgot about them? They still need me to be the teacher; it's so unfair of me to concentrate on myself when I'm in school. I made sure I smiled during the rest of the day; hopefully Brian won't have to say that anymore. I will never cease to be amazed at the power of twelve-year-olds, and of a few little words. I have to thank him for that tomorrow; things will change.

My Personal Vent (begun last Thursday and since modified)

There was one observation you made this afternoon that was right on the mark: I am the kind of person who waits until she is absolutely frustrated before she says anything; I'm sure it's a habit I will continue to regret, but that's too late now. I need to tell you some things about the way I learn, and I need you to listen more than you did this afternoon. What I was trying to tell you when I let you know how stressed and defensive I feel in the seminar and when we speak is that the style with which you are dealing with me is simply not effective. I am more than well aware of my responsibilities; I have a strong conscience in those matters, and the fact that I have not completed some of the things you have asked of me does weigh heavily on me.

HOWEVER, you need to know that being constantly reminded of these things doesn't help the situation: when I know that something needs to be done, I will do it -- it will get done -- and all that being told time and again (especially within the same time frame, when I have not had the chance to correct the problem) does for me is make me feel more stubborn and unwilling to complete the task. There are books from high school that I never read, simply because they were forced on me; I do not appreciate being treated as though I have no individual will. I know that you feel that being "directive" with me will help; but the fact is that it has precisely the opposite effect. I need to be told once, clearly, and as long as I have written it down, it will get done.

This is also true of things like the fact that I do not yet have a class; Sue and I have worked on this together, and frankly I feel more confident with her assessment of my abilities than with yours. I will be taking a class as soon as it is logistically desireable; having you remind me time and again does nothing to increase my willingness to do so; rather, it makes it feel more like a chore, something I have to do, more than something that will help me. I hope this is clear, because it seems I have not been clear in the past. I am not trying to "blame" you for anything that has happened in my classroom experience; I simply want you to understand where I'm coming from (which is the reason I suggested that we interns write IEPs on ourselves for you).

As far as the in class observations go, I have been working with Sue on my "style" and things of that nature. Because you only see me and my students for an hour every two weeks, I know that you cannot possibly understand the dynamic that has evolved. But I know that the kids you saw in 7-1 were by no means bothered by the fact that I had to move the VCR, and while I appreciate your suggestions, I'm afraid it really came across as "you should do it this way because that's the way I would do it" and not "learn from what didn't go 100% right." While I prefer a slightly more disciplined classroom than Sue, it doesn't bother her or me if the students are not actively engaged in learning every single minute they're in that classroom -- for most of them, that's simply not possible -- it's not even for most adults I know. Down time will not kill them, nor harm their overall education; and if I don't come across as "professional" 100% of the time, I know that it doesn't lessen their respect for me as a person or a teacher. I hope that you can understand that, and perhaps take it into account the next time we speak.

Most sincerely, and with hope for the future,


Goto the goals that I tried to set for myself

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