Tuesday, July 26, 2011

telling tales and biting nails

Kinderblog summer blogging challenge, question #2! And yes, I am nearly a week late on this.

Tell us about the teacher preparation you attended. (You don't have to name the school if you don't want to.) Did you love it at the time? Did it prepare you adequately for teaching? How did you feel about it as you were in it? Does it look different now, looking back? Would you change it if you could? What did get out of it? What did you not get that you needed?

True confession time: this question has kicked my a$$ around the block for 2 weeks. I have started this story 1001 times. Cut, pasted, changed, rearranged, re-considered. I keep trying to make it A Story, with some sort of narrative describing my university experience in a coherent fashion. And I am starting to think that this is not A Story. This is 100 Stories...

I wanted to tear my undergrad program apart, because I spent hours writing fake lesson plans and digging through programs of study, without ever learning anything meaningful about the children and what I am supposed to DO with them. (Honestly, even fake, imaginary children would have been helpful.)

And then I remembered an education lab, taught by an overworked but dedicated graduate student who spent 2 whole class periods explicitly teaching us tips and techniques for writing legibly (and in a straight line!) on the whiteboard, saying she wished someone had taught her, and given her time to practice. She videotaped us writing on the board, and we critiqued one another with gentle humour and gales of laughter.

And I realised: I learned that mastering details makes the big picture a whole lot easier to deliver.

And then I thought about the kind French professor who squeezed me and 2 of my girlfriends into his already crowded section, because the prof of our assigned section -- loud, aggressive, volatile, and too-friendly with students -- made us uncomfortable.

And I realised: I learned that kindness and compassion are not incompatible with professionalism.

I wanted to rant about the education professor who gave us a pile of readings about various educational philosophers, and then assigned a paper wherein we had to choose the philosophy that worked for us. I poured my heart into dissecting each philosophy, explaining why it didn't work for me, and then articulating my *own* beliefs (which, to be clear, DID draw on some of the readings.)  That professor failed my paper because, by not choosing one of the assigned philosophers, I didn't "fulfill the requirements." What's more, according to her, my philosophy was "neither practical nor realistic."*

And I realised: I learned that if evidence of hard work, deep engagement, critical thinking, and reflection is not compatible with "the requirements," it is perhaps time to re-consider The Requirements.

I wanted to decry the irony of Education lectures so dry and boring and poorly delivered that my friends and I took turns going to class and making copies of the notes so as to minimize the wasted time.

And then I thought about the professor with incredible expertise in special-needs populations, who opened the first class by saying "I have a lot of knowledge, and the best way I know to share it is by talking to you." She delivered 60-minute lectures so articulate and engaging that we sat spell-bound for every minute of every class.

And I realised: I learned that there is more than one way to be a great teacher, and there is an art to delivering a great lecture.

And then I thought about my favourite professor, who taught us about reading and writing workshop by having us DO those workshops in her class, at our own level. We wrote our own stories, and when I wrote a narrative, bilingual, poem about my disillusionment with my undergraduate education program (of which, as I recall, she was THE CHAIRPERSON), she read it with an open mind and open heart, and gave me an A+.

And I realised: I learned that truly great teachers are truly humble, and that my own ego has no place in a classroom.

(That professor, by the way, wrote me a glowing letter to get into grad school, even though we had been out of touch for 5 years, wrote to me regularly throughout grad school, and sent flowers on the day I defended my Master's Thesis. And so I have learned that student-teacher relationships exceed the bounds of time and distance.)

I wanted to get up on my soapbox about how woefully little I learned in those 4 years that actually prepared me to teach.

And then I realised: I learned an awful lot about how to think about teaching, and how to become a person who could become a good teacher.

And maybe that is, and was, enough.

*FYI, that philosophy: "Love the child, and the rest will follow." has now carried me through 15+ years of a career working with children in a broad range of settings. It has proven to be not only practical, but permanent; not only realistic, but required.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! learning is neither practical or realistic - it is intrinsic : )
    Well worth the wait Amy, thanks