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  • My experience student teaching has been almost everything I expected it to be.

    I was pretty good at anticipating which lessons my kids would hate and which ones they would like. I anticipated which ones would stick with them and which ones would disintegrate from their minds. I anticipated the kinds of things they would write about (for the most part), and the things in their lives that are most important to them. I anticipated that they would be well-behaved some days and lunatics other days. I contemplated how I would deal with classroom management, and I think I have handled that quite efficiently. I thought about all the work I would have to complete during my last semester. I honestly didn't know HOW I would get it all done, but I knew I would, like I always do.

    I also contemplated the idea of drowning. My CT told me that I would start to drown once or twice throughout the semester, and she would be there to save me. I've never been one to get overwhelmed before, so this concept of drowning was hard for me to imagine. And fortunately, it never happened. Not in the way my CT anticipated anyways. There were some days that I felt like I was drowning in paperwork, drowning in not-time to do stuff other than school/work/class, or drowning in BS from the higher-ups (certification requirements, mandatory testing, countless hoops to jump through, surprise hoops to jump through, etc.).

    But I never needed anyone to save me. I rarely felt the need to complain. I never allowed myself to think that I wouldn't be able to get through this stuff, and so I always got through it. Much to my CT's dismay, the opportunity never came for her to extend her hand to me out in the water. I was always good about handling everything on my own.

    What I was not good about handling, and what I did not anticipate, was the intelligence level of my students. My CT made On-Level kids out to be these dumb slackers who hated school, hated authority, and had no plans for their futures. I was anticipating having to dumb down my speech, writing, teaching, and lessons for this group. I was anticipating standing in front of a bunch of people who were going to fall asleep or kill themselves before they had to listen to what I had to say.

    The very first week with the students, I knew my CT had been wrong. Maybe it's just a difference in perception; maybe she was just trying to give me the worst-case scenario to prepare me. But that first week was very shocking to me. These were just not a bunch of slackers. These were smart kids with intelligent thoughts and realistic plans for their futures. They didn't hate school; they were tired of school. They were tired of teachers who are tired of them. I made sure I wasn't going to let my preconceived notions about these kids dictate how I was going to teach them. I decided to become the kind of teacher they needed.

    We did a lot of writing. We put away the worksheets, the handouts, and the multiple-choice tests. I didn't just give them a packet of literature and tell them to read it and answer questions. We talked about stuff. We discussed things. We discussed our interpretations of literature. We analyzed EVERYTHING. We started looking at literature as stuff that we can relate to, not just stuff we have to skim over well enough to pass a test.

    I was not good at handling this change of mind that I had about the students. It was hard to stand up in front of them as their teacher and pretend I was so much more intelligent than them, knowing that some of them would be smarter than me if they were my age. I knew I was still on a different level than them - as smart as they turned out to be, their maturity levels and life experience keep them in the "kids" category while I consider myself an "adult." But I realized that teachers who think they have all the power just because they think they're geniuses and their kids are idiots aren't the kind of teachers that kids need.

    Kids need authority figures who demonstrate why they are in positions of authority. Not people who simply say "listen to me because you're stupid and I'm in charge." Kids need teachers who show them WHY they should stay awake in class and pay attention - teachers who show them the value of education. And that's why my students thrived in my class. That's why I'm confident that I'm leaving my students with the skills and knowledge that will get them places in life. Not because I have all these great ideas. Not because I'm a Language Arts genius. Not because I know it all. But because I've been the kind of teacher that these kids look up to - a role model who shows them the true advantages of understanding the literature, building their knowledge, and, most importantly, being a good writer.
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