Well, I was going to post this at the end of my first full week of student teaching two weeks ago, but unfortunately, the weather had other plans. Let’s take stock, shall we?
I started student teaching on February 11th, a Wednesday. The following Monday, we had an early-release day for snow, and didn’t return to school again until Friday, when we had a two-hour delay. Then, the next week, I got a full Monday, but again we were cancelled Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and had a two-hour delay on Friday. So this week was supposed to finally be my first full week, right? Wrong again! Last night the temperature dropped and there was freezing rain, so again we had a two-hour delay today. Gracious!
No thanks, Oprah. I mean, the first time it was fun, but now it’s just old…
Oh well. At least I did get to meet my Tuesday classes this week finally! Three weeks at the school and I had not even been formally introduced to them haha. I have been doing morning hall-duty greeting students and afternoon carpool duty sending them home with my Cooperating Teacher (CT) though, so I had at least laid eyes on most of them and they’d seen me around. Still, it is crazy how much the weather has thrown a wrench into things.
Let me explain why missing so many days is so bad for me and my CT. We teach elementary school music. Due to the nature of elementary schools, “enhancement” classes like ours only see each class one time a week. For instance, our schedule has kindergarten classes coming from 10:10am – 10:55am every day. So each day during that time we have a different kindergarten class. Thus we see all 615 students in the entire school within a week, which is great, but at the same time, if we miss a day for snow, it puts whatever classes were supposed to come on that day a week behind all the others.
So, because two weeks in a row we’ve missed Tuesday-Thursday, and we’ve had two-hour delays on Friday’s for three weeks in a row, there are quite a few classes that are incredibly behind, and no time to really catch them up. My CT has a couple fifth grade classes who she has only seen three times since they came back from Christmas break in January, because not only has there been snow but the fifth graders have had awards assemblies and trips and other activities that took away from their enhancement time.
Anyway, I digress. Long story short (too late, I know), this past week has been a lot of ups and downs for me. Taking stock now at the end of the week, I would say that the ups have outnumbered the downs, but only because there are a lot of small ones that oppose the few very heavy downs.
UP! I love children. I loved my practicum experience last semester with middle schoolers; they’re spunky and smart and hilarious, but even this early on I can tell that I was right when I chose to teach elementary school music for student teaching and as my future career. The students are so eager and full of energy and creativity! There is so much potential pent up in their little bodies sometimes I wonder how they contain it all.
Me: “Gabe, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Gabe: “A ninja-astronaut. With two swords!”
DOWN. Enhancement teachers in my area are severely under-appreciated. There is little to no support from parents, other teachers, and administration, and don’t even mention the county. This is not a fact that I was unaware of before I started this experience, but seeing it– experiencing it– first hand has been a bit like a cold bucket of water to the face. This is what I want to do with my life, it is my passion, and I am seeing that most likely, I am going to work very hard to do something that a lot of people will never see, and even more will not think is important.
UP! My CT is amazing! Despite substantial obstacles, she has developed some incredible instructional techniques and her students are all the evidence anyone could need of her talent. I am beyond grateful to have someone to work with who I know can teach me as much as she can, and I’m busy every day lapping up any advice she can give me and scribbling down all the things she does to run her classroom.
DOWN. Time. Time is such a downer. There just isn’t enough of it! Each class is only 45 minutes, 5-10 of which is spent just doing regular things such as taking roll, setting up materials, and explaining activities. “Why don’t you just leave things set up?” You may ask. Well, that’s simply impossible when you see a class from each grade level and sometimes EC (special needs) classes all in one day! Each class is doing a different activity because they are on different levels, different lessons. We only get one break between classes, which is an hour lunch exactly in the middle. With three classes back to back to back, it’s hard to do much preparation, and yet it’s not a good idea to try and prepare for your third class first thing in the morning. It’s an interesting conundrum.
UP! I get to see all the students. This may seem like it would be a down to some of you, but I will never consider it one. I love that I get to meet every student in the school, regardless of what their preferences are or what their grades are or whether or not they have money for an instrument. It has already been a great learning experience and I’ve barely even taught anything yet. I see students who’s parents buy them their own recorder and they practice every day and will come to any extra-curricular you ask them to. I see students who would do all those things but financially cannot. I see students who come to school every day happy and smiling even though their clothes are torn and dirty and their shoes don’t fit. I see students who come to school every day crying but leave happy because at school they have friends, they get to learn, and they have fun. It gives me a chance to see these little snapshots of so many lives. I get the opportunity to do my best to touch 615 children in a positive way every week! It’s a little intimidating, but if I can succeed, I know that everything else I go through will be worth it.
We’ve been learning the song Follow the Drinking Gourd with third graders. It’s been a great experience discussing slavery and how people use music to communicate.
UP! I am having so much fun and getting so many awesome ideas!!! Even with the weather interruptions, I have been able to learn a lot, and I know I’ll learn even more as I continue on! This week I taught all 5 kindergarten classes. I did a lesson on tempo and keeping a steady beat. It went all right, but there are definitely areas I need to improve on. I don’t even care though; even that is an up to me! I have something to work for, something to strive to. I’m going to teach Kindergarten next week as well, so I’ll see those classes for a second time. If I can make sure that I do a better job next week than this one, then I will consider it a success.
So, onward! Off I go, into the great blue yonder. Many challenges lie ahead, but I am confident this will be a good experience as long as I keep my head up. I love my CT. I love my school (side note– this school has solidified my previous preference for more rural/poorer schools. It’s a Title I school, which in North Carolina means we have a high percentage of students on free and reduced lunch, and some people say that teaching at poorer schools is worse, but I disagree. These kids are so happy to be at school! Even the ones who misbehave, you often realize that they would rather have bad attention than the complete lack of attention they receive at home.) I am ready to fight my way through and make some really dumb mistakes and try to become a better teacher. I’ll check in from time to time and let you know how things are going!