Diving In…

Here we go!

Well, my first semester of student teaching has finally begun. I am so excited about my placement in an 8th grade classroom at Milwaukee School of Languages. MSL is a 6-12 MPS school for students from the language immersion programs. While the school offers classes in German, Chinese, French, Japanese, and Spanish, I’ll be teaching English in English. (Good thing, too, because I can’t get by in anything else other than Spanish!) I truly couldn’t ask for a better school to be teaching in. There is a culturally diverse student body full of bright kids from many different walks of life. The school environment is positive and bustling. Teachers and students alike are full of enthusiasm, and the respect that they all display for one another is, for the most part, extremely impressive. I’ve already met many great people. My cooperating teacher in particular is an amazing person. I am overjoyed to be working with her.

It’s been just one week, but I am already starting to feel at home in the classes that I am observing and will soon be teaching. The room is sunlit and warm, with teal tile floors and desks nearly wall to wall. The class sizes fluctuate from 23 to 40. This week, I worked hard to learn the names of the students that I will be primarily teaching; there are 57. The kids as a whole are really good and very smart… They are definitely exuberant (a.k.a. full of hardly containable social energy), but the continual teasing and strutting is an unavoidable part of being thirteen. Many of them grew up together, so there’s a sense of community in the class. Of course, this also means that sometimes they just have to bust out into talking or movement—but I’m ok with that. It’s actually quite endearing. It’s unnatural for kids to just sit there like automatons in silence and obedience; I think they could probably benefit from some structured group work. Hopefully I can come up with activities that are effective as well as interactive and fun.

I am finding more and more that I am excited to be in a career where I can be playful and happy, where that works to my advantage. This is something I think that teachers often forget: youth is not just about struggle and hormones and coming-of-age. It’s also about the joy of discovery. I remember when I started thinking about life’s deeper puzzles. I was entranced, absolutely. There’s no need for teachers to stomp out that natural joy. It’s our job to foster it. If I have to teach, if I have to grade and assess, I don’t want it to be plodding drudgery. I would prefer it to be enjoyable, enlightening, and, if at all possible, humorous. Now that I’m actually in a school every day, I see that the classroom truly is a blank slate that a teacher can use in countless ways. We make our own prison or paradise, and we have to use what we’re given to build it.

All in all, I can say that I’m very happy to finally be here. I’ve done so much questioning while following the meandering nonsense that has been my career path. But right now, I feel like I am exactly where I belong. Now that I’m here, I feel things clicking into place. I feel a rightness to it all.

I take that as a good sign.

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