We are now in the second week of my internship, and what an interesting week it’s been! First and foremost, we had a total of one day in the classroom this week. Due to the fact that Monday was an unpaid furlough day for teachers—and Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were cancelled due to a snowstorm—there was barely any time spent in the classroom. Yet, I cannot say I did not learn anything this week. In fact, I learned a great deal about teaching.
First, teaching is unpredictable. I had no idea there would be any snow this week, let alone enough to cancel pretty much an entire week of school. Nor did I know that when students in your classroom look out the windows and see snow falling, they abandon any notion of learning and become crazed beings bent on chaos. Nor did I Nor did I know that even if students are allowed to go home due to an impending “Snow storm of the century,” teachers are not nearly as free to escape. Nor did I know that Seattle roads are unfit for any form of snow and ice, and when a 1999 Volkswagen Passat (A car owned by yours truly) attempts to drive home from work it can easily find itself in a ditch somewhere out by the SeaTac Airport. Nor did I know that a teacher’s job is never done, even when not in the classroom. Who could have predicted any of this??? Therefore, I must assess this week as invaluable to my understanding of the teaching profession.
Second, department meetings are… interesting. On Tuesday—before any evidence appeared of the snowstorm—the 9thGrade Language Arts teachers met to discuss their plans for the next unit of the curriculum. After introductions and initial catch-up, we began to read through the unit plan already written up by the district (My high school functions out of District Frameworks/Curriculum). While reading, we talked about the main objectives and goals for our students, focusing on how this unit (Unit 4: Persuasive) looks to utilize three different phases: reading/immersion, drafting, and revision/editing, in order to introduce students to the art of persuasion. We then moved on to easily the most fascinating portion of the meeting: Adult learning. During this experience, the teachers themselves are led through an example mini-lesson from the unit they are about to teach in order to understand what will be expected from their students. We were guided through a persuasive work by the department coach, then we had a long discussion about what persuasive techniques were used, what the purpose of the work was, and what kind of audience for which the work would have been effective—all objectives our students will be required to accomplish in this next unit. It was a difficult, unique, and engaging experience, and I feel strongly that I now have a better grasp as to what I will be teaching my students in the coming weeks. The final portion of the meeting consisted of some cooperative planning. We discussed some ideas for possible mini-lessons and classroom activities that would be particularly effective in this unit. And although many creative, diverse ideas were produced in this time, the harmony of our team was decimated. Teachers fought for the mini-lessons they wanted to teach, argued over which activities should be done and which should not, bickered about specific students, opened up about their opinions of past units, and so much more. It was truly a learning experience for me! This experience reminded me of SPU’s Principle E2, which states, “Exemplify collaboration within the school. Teacher-candidates participate collaboratively and professionally in school activities and using appropriate and respectful verbal and written communication.” As I sat there beside a handful of teachers arguing for at least an hour, I reflected on the fact that even within our arguments–even within our disagreements and disputes–we were undoubtedly working for the benefit of each and every one of our students. Obviously, every meeting cannot be perfectly harmonious because every teacher has his/her own distinct style, but at least we were talking to each other, expanding our understanding of the curriculum, learning from one another… all of this will only lead to the improvement of our instructional abilities. Collaboration, even at its most war-torn state, is STILL collaboration! And when teachers talk and learn from one another, the students are truly the ones who will benefit the most!
The third and final thing I learned this week is the importance of flexibility in education. We were supposed to finish up a unit this week with collecting essays and having the students complete a post-test. Instead, we did not accomplish anything. We are now forced to push all of our plans back an entire week. If my mentor teacher and I are flexible, we can still find success despite this huge setback. If we are not flexible, we are in deep trouble. I’m learning, quite clearly in fact, just how important it is to take everything in stride. The more you let the minor setbacks affect your instruction, the less you will truly be able to impact your students. Therefore, I want to put it upon myself to practice and improve my flexibility in the classroom. If I can do this, I think I can be that much better of an instructor for my students.