Many wonder what it would be like to walk in someone else’s shoes; this summer I’ve had the opportunity to walk in the shoes of a teacher.
I am fortunate enough to have lucked-out on my first real, legitimate job by getting a job at a tutoring center where I instruct debate and English/English Writing. While the job is much different than I’d imagine it would be, it has proved to be a great and valuable experience that has exceeded my expectations but also changed my view on what those expectations were.
Since starting I have had a steep learning curve, specifically in English Writing. Having not known any background about my students I got to learn through reading their work and working with them exactly what it is I really need to be doing as a instructor/tutor, and found myself doing everything between School House Rock and worksheets on appositives and sentence fragments. I’ve understood the struggle of having multiple students all having separate needs and trying to bounce around and make sure everyone is getting help. But most importantly, I have felt what it’s like to teach kids who desperately wish they were doing literally anything else.
The largest struggle, by far, has been keeping students on track- especially with kids who reach for their iPhone, computer, tablet, and yes, once even my computer, every break or free second. While technology can be extremely helpful in classroom environments, as I had one student enjoying an educational spelling game so much they played it through their breaks, I have also seen it’s negative ramifications. I don’t want to bark at students using their technology, but it doesn’t seem to compute to them how annoying it is for them to be scrolling through Instagram or playing a game while I, or especially another student, is trying to speak or give a speech for debate. They say they are listening and explaining why multitasking in this situation doesn’t seem to… computer. There is a wonderful parallelism between how I am here to teach a communication game, debate, but am really learning about how to communicate with others along the way.
I now understand a teacher’s struggle to desperately need students to focus while simultaneously not wanting to come off as abrasive or mean. But, at the same time, I also now understand how great it is to see kids loving learning, getting excited for activities, and and being genuinely appreciative for your work. I always marvel at my teacher’s ability to muster enough patience and wisdom and tolerance to deal with kids when they are at their worst and would more than anything rather be anywhere but that classroom; I can only hope I have seen a glimpse of why teachers say it is all worth it.
I’ll be completely frank in saying that when I interviewed for this job I wasn’t even sure they needed to hire staff, or that they would want to hire a teenager, or that I would get the first job for which I had interviewed. After I’d been confirmed for the job and had a month or so before I’d begin, I was all but certain that there was no conceivable way I would be qualified for the job; I still worry parents will think a teenager is not fit for the job. Yet despite this, I’ve surprised myself with how qualified I have turned out to be for this job. My knowledge in grammar has far exceeded what I expected of myself, and perhaps that is the best sort of result in this experience. I am seeing myself grow as an educator but also get to look back to and at my teachers and reflect on those experiences after having to pry a student away from a computer to focus or try to get a student or try to get a loud class to lower the volume a bit. All I can hope is that from this experience I’ve grown and learned what it’s like to be on the other side of the student-teacher exchange, and perhaps when I go back to school in the fall I’ll be able to see education in a different light when I’ve come full circle and return to the role of student.