Trial by Fire: The Epic Journey of Student Teaching

It is quite clear that I lack to ability to keep this blog accurately updated with the happenings of my life, but if you knew how exciting my life is, you would be more understanding of my lack of updates. In reality, it is easier to tweet than to blog. (Interesting note: 10 years ago, I would have no idea what “tweet” or “blog” means. Technology..)

I can’t remember where we left off on this wild ride called my life, so I’ll just jump right in and hopefully my readers won’t be too disappointed. (Since I don’t think I actually have readers, there really is no disappointment to be had.)
On January 5th, I began the ultimate test of the previous 4.5 years of my life: Student Teaching. Student teaching is a strange limbo to be in. To the students, you are a teacher. To the teachers, you are a student. You have no real power, and no actual rights since you are not under contract. The teachers and administrators can do whatever they want with you because they don’t need you and you can’t quit unless you want to waste years of education and countless thousands of dollars. The students see you as a fun game: who can make the student teacher cry first? (I am three weeks in and have yet to shed a tear. However, I think some of the bigger ones can smell my fear.)
I never went to public school and my high school was rather small. (I graduated from a class of 11.) After 3 weeks of wandering the halls, (I have to leave a trail of bread crumbs, Hansel and Gretel style, wherever I go so I can find my way back. The downside is the freshmen keep eating them.) I have a newfound appreciation for my friends who went to big public high schools. High school is TERRIFYING. The hallways are jam-packed with people of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of hygiene. Some students have beards, others are still wearing velcro shoes. The 5 minutes between each class are a mad rush of people opening and closing lockers, finishing homework, cultivating popularity, and doing damage control on their social lives. And then they’re expected to learn. I don’t think I would have cut it as a student here.
The most intense part of my day is probably pit duty. In the main hallway there are two “pits” that serve as a student common area where the kids mingle between classes, during study halls, and during their lunch period. During 1st lunch and about half of 2nd lunch I am supposed to stand at one end of the pits and maintain order. This means, preventing teen pregnancy (“You two are creating a scene. Please keep your hands to yourselves.”), diminishing bullying and gang violence (“I need you two to stop throwing plastic bottle caps at each other.”), and maintaining a sanitary environment (“You’re going to have to finish your pizza in the cafeteria.”). It’s basically crowd control, but as I stood there on my first day, the crowds of hungry, angry, hormone-frenzied teens swirling about me, I had a realization. “If something were to happen right now, I would have no idea what to do.” Seriously, what was I going to do? About 5% of the student body is smaller than me, and they are probably all stronger than me. I have no idea what any of their names are and it gets so loud in there that I highly doubt any of them would hear me or even care if I started shouting at them. Then I was given this piece of advice, from one of my professors: Fake it. And you know what? It works. These kids don’t know me, so they don’t know if I’m going to go crazy on them or not. The fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. So now, instead of, “Please stop throwing paper at me,” it’s “If I see another piece of flying paper I will construct a giant paper airplane, strap you to it, and push it off the top of the gym.”
My 7th hour class is also a place of despair…well not really, but is it a challenging 50 minutes. There are almost 30 sophomores in one room, and each one needs a lot of attention. What I like about them is there is a lot of personality in that room. Sure, at the end of the day there is nothing I would like more than to sit at my desk and let my brain dissolve into some kind of brain broth, but these kids will simply not allow it. In all honesty, this is probably my favorite group of kids, though 6th hour Creative Writing is a close second.
At only 3 weeks in, I have seen, heard, and smelled many new and terrifying things. I feel the students’ secret desire to break me, but if I can keep the tears in until they all go home, I should be fine.

2 thoughts on “Trial by Fire: The Epic Journey of Student Teaching

  1. Hi! You caught student teaching perfectly. I enjoyed reading your blog. Your off the cuff comments are humorous and telling. Will be checking in again. Give Bekah my best!

  2. You make it sound so scary! I remember my first forays into my children's high school were scary at best and terrifying usually. But after 10 years I was finally able to "fake it" credibly.

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