Internship: Weeks 2 – 4, Flushed Classroom Keys and Sleepless Nights

Most people hate MonIMG_1301days, right? Last week I took my Monday morning to a new level, as I watched my classroom keys get flushed down the AUTOMATIC flush toilets. I just stood there for a few moments, not really sure what the next step would be. After the initial shock of seeing my precious keys flushed down the toilet wore off, I realized I had to gather up the courage to tell my coop teacher this embarrassing story. Fortunately for me, she was able to find the humor in this, and I was able to get a new set. If this was setting the tone for my week, then it was going to be a long one.

There was a partial lockdown issued in all of the schools in the city this past week, and although it was somewhat nerve-racking and of course put a damper on the afternoon, we continued with classes as normal. Despite the annoyance, it was definitely reassuring to see how well the schools are able to adapt to circumstances to ensure the safety of all students and teachers throughout the city, because regardless of the situation, students’ safety is always the number one priority.

This past week was my first full week of teaching, and it was exhausting. I have come to find it to be really frustrating to teach something that your students do not understand because you have tried your best to explain it in various different ways, and still they are not understanding. I remember in high school getting so frustrated with my math and science teachers because I felt as if they weren’t explaining things enough and I wasn’t getting it at all. Now the tables have turned, and I feel like I am the one who isn’t explaining these concepts to students enough. This is one of the reasons that I think formative assessments are so important because when I look out at my students, so often I am thinking they have no idea what I am trying to explain. I wonder if they are simply bored to death, do they have no clue what I am talking about, or is there something on my face?

I’ve been told that some people believe that we teachers all get a “book” that we read, and it just tells us what to teach. I think the “book” they are referring to is the curriculum, which of course all teachers (are supposed to) follow, however what most people don’t realize is that the curriculum explains what outcomes we as teachers need to ensure our students are meeting, but the curriculum doesn’t explain how to get those students there. How do teachers hit these outcomes for students who need extreme help along the way? How do teachers go above and beyond these outcomes for students who need more enrichment and are already way past these outcomes? People really underestimate how hard teachers have to work every day. Teaching something that some student’s get immediately,  and some have no idea what you are talking about, where is the balance? Teachers need to figure out how to get that deeper explanation to the students who need it, and then need to also decide how to get the students who have already mastered this to the next level, all while doing this in an hour with all students working on task on something  meaningful to their educational and meaningful to their future. This something that will hopefully come with experience, as I have no idea how to do any of that yet.

I am slowly settling into the teaching routine. The drastic change is now becoming what I am used to. What I am not used to is thinking about school and lessons 24/7. It is not only mentally exhausting, but also physically and emotionally exhausting to be thinking about school every hour of the day. This has been a struggle because I haven’t been sleeping well most nights because I am constantly thinking about my lesson my next day. I try not to stay at school too late most nights, as I usually arrive pretty early. However, when I am leaving school and arrive home, I feel as if I should be doing something. Surely, I can’t take the night off and spend my time doing non-school related things.

For the first few weeks of school, I was in this routine where I would literally take home six or seven books thinking I would maybe need them or work on something in each book. I decided last week I needed to stop doing that, because seeing these books and binders piled up on my table only added to the feelings of anxiety. I don’t need to take my entire desk home with me every night; it is unrealistic to think I am going to do hours and hours of planning once I get home, after planning for over five hours during school time. Even when I am not spending my evenings and weekends planning, I still cannot get planning out of my head while I am sleeping. I am thinking maybe I should try going to the gym before I go to bed, or maybe practicing some kind of yoga or meditation.

Something I have realized over the past few weeks is that I need to work on is turning school off for the day when I leave. Any of my teacher friends have suggestions to this issue? Or is this what it will be like for the next 3 months??

Ready or Not, Here Comes Internship

Weeks One & Two 

Regina-20150901-00184It seems as if it was only yesterday that I was sitting in my small high school library, typing out my essay stating why I would be a good candidate to be accepted into the faculty of Education at the University of Regina. Fast-forward three and half years, and here I am (to the left) ready for the first day of school. Only this time I am a teacher instead of the student. The 4th year internship seemed to have come out of nowhere. Am I ready for this internship? No, probably not. I don’t believe anyone can be fully prepared for this big of a challenge. On the first day of classes, a student asked me what my name was and I almost blurted out, “Tessa”. I mumbled something inaudible, trying to recover before responding with Ms. Thacker. I don’t feel like a “Ms.” anything! Even after chopping my hair off in hopes of looking older, I still feel like a student myself.

People always tell me I am crazy for wanting to teach in a high school, asking, “Who would want to spend their days with moody teenagers?” Of course I was nervous going into a senior classroom because I was a teenager once, and it was awful. My nervousness quickly washed away once I realized that even though these kids are stuck in oversized, growing bodies, their maturity is still only of that – kids. Besides, after my many years in the service industry, whatever naïve-ness I once had is completely gone – nothing shocks me anymore.

I am starting my internship teaching a grade ten class. I feel lucky because it it is one of the smallest class sizes my coop and I have at 25 students, which is a nice number to start with. These “moody teenagers” are my favourite part; I love seeing the individual personalities appearing and can tell this is going to be a great class to carry throughout the entire semester.

Coming from small town Saskatchewan, moving to Regina was obviously a big change from my familiar little niche. However, coming to teach in a school with a population that exceeds my entire hometown proved to be a much bigger culture shock. The first day of school was all about introductory activities, and I soon realized it wasn’t just about introducing who I was to the class, but also about introducing the students to each other. Even in my faculty in university, we all basically know each other. Regardless of the size, I am excited to have the chance to be at such a great school with so many more opportunities that I grew up having.

Starting internship was something I have always been anxious about. For years, fellow Ed students have instilled fear in pre-internship students. Hearing horror stories like, “You won’t sleep for four months” and, “You will cry more than once, probably at school. Your students will probably make you cry, actually.” Or, “You won’t be able to work another job, this is your full time job and if you try to work, you won’t pass internship”. And “Your coop will most likely hate you and make you cry, and make you do all of their marking and photocopying”. They left us with the impression that there will be a lot of crying going on.

Okay so I am only in week two, (and yes I have already cried) so maybe this is the reality of Internship. It is true that this has been the most challenging part of my education, thus far, but definitely not the most horrible time in your life as some people have made it out to be. Time-management will be your best friend. Yes, you will be focusing on school related topics basically 24/7. I have already started dreaming about lessons and how I am going to teach the next day. I actually have had a nightmare regarding the Holocaust – a topic that my grade 10s will be studying in depth.

However, I actually have been enjoying my weekends working at my other job. It’s second nature, I have been doing it for so long. I like that its mindless (in the best way possible), and I really enjoy having a change in environment. As much as I love my teenagers, it is nice to be surrounded by adults.

In reality the biggest challenge I have had so far is drastically changing my daily routine. I have never worked a full time job before, nor have I ever worked a job where I was challenged every single day. I have had summer jobs, of course, but for the past few years I have served full time during the summer so my routine has been complete opposite and barely required critical thinking. The biggest challenge is getting settled into this drastic routine. Being a student the majority of my life, I have always had a choice of whether or not to go to class that day. If I felt like sleeping in, I would. It’s really hard making the switch from student to teacher, especially since being a student is all I have ever known.

The end of the first week, I was completely overwhelmed. There is such an incredibly high workload, especially in English classes. Looking at everything made me cry. Literally, I had a little cry Friday after school. Fortunately for me, my mother was a teacher for over 30 years and she always listens and understands my teacher troubles. Like I have said, making the switch from student to teacher is obviously necessary, but still very overwhelming.

I am fortunate in the fact that my coop teacher is great; she has an incredible record of teaching under her belt, and is very willing to coach me. She is a great teacher to have as a mentor, and I know that I will be able to learn amazing things from her.

Although I am slowly starting to get into the teaching routine, I have a newfound respect for the phrase, “TGIF”. Friday’s are my favourite day.

Thanks for reading!