[The last week of teacher's college] "What a waste of time. I can't wait for this to be over already."
[The last day of classes] "Wohoo! I'm free! Time to live my dream and start a blossoming career as an educator and shape the lives and minds of thousands of children for the better!"
POST-GRAD PHASE 1: Quarter-Life Crisis
"I need to find a job."
"Minimum wage? No way."
"Why won't they hire me?"
"AM I NOT GOOD ENOUGH?"
POST-GRAD PHASE 2: Reality Check
"It's only been two weeks since classes ended, why am I getting so worked up about this job hunting business? I need to relax a little."
POST-GRAD PHASE 3: Guilt
"Oh God. Is that... It is..."
"OH PLEASE GOD I WILL TAKE ANY JOB I CAN GET AS LONG AS I DO NOT HAVE TO SACRIFICE MY DIGNITY!"
POST-GRAD PHASE 4: The Return To The Job Hunt
[Applies to any and all jobs available]
"What if they want to hire me?"
An entry I wrote for my educational law and policy class:
In my first year I became a tutor in the classroom to make some money on the side and get additional experience in the classroom. I had been working closely with a little boy in the third grade who was diagnosed with Asperger's and had behavioral issues in the classroom. He was short tempered, ill-mannered, and never wanted to stay on task. It was a challenge to engage him in the classroom, and he would almost always require additional supervision or individualized attention (either in the form of an EA, me, or the resource teacher) at school. Oftentimes, he would lash out in anger at the teacher or his peers without warning- he could go from 0 to 100 in an instant, and you could never tell what the next minor thing that would set him off would be. Needless to say, I had doubts in my mind about my future prospects as a teacher. If these were the types of challenges I would face in my classroom (and this was just one child), could I become the teacher that these children needed me to be?
It wasn't until one day during lunch that I remembered why I was there. The little boy (George, let's call him) was sitting alone out in the hallway- his head was down and he wasn't eating his lunch. I sat next to him and asked, "George, what seems to be troubling you today?" "My dad doesn't like me," he said. "Oh?" I asked. "He says I'm stupid and sometimes he hits me when I'm wrong." In that instant, my fears and doubts dissolved. I stopped seeing him as some an explosive time bomb sent to make my life miserable but as another fellow human being- with feelings and emotions just like you and I. What he had said had bothered me, so I ended up reported this to the Principal and she stayed with me while I made the call to CAS (Children's Aid Society). It was a nerve-racking call to make, but the Principal was supportive and reassured me that making the call did not always mean the parents will be put under investigation. Oftentimes, they would collect information and no action would be taken until they had enough grounds to persue the case. At the time, I only had very limited information and did not want to be the cause of George being separated from his parents. The lady on the phone asked me whether I saw any visible bruises on George (I didn't) and asked for direct quotations of what George said. The call only took about 10 minutes to make, and it felt like the right thing to do. I do not know what George's life is like today, but it was evident that he was in a school with teachers that cared and loved him. As a teacher, I may never know who the "Georges" in my classroom are, but I can do my best to provide the loving, caring, and supportive environment that my students deserve.
Has anyone else had a similar experience? What was it like for you?
The 2014-2015 academic year marks my 18th consecutive year of schooling. Over the last two years, I've developed a horrible case of "senoritis," which, according to Wikipedia is "a colloquial term mainly used in the United States and Canada to describe the decreased motivation toward studies displayed by students who are nearing the end of their high school, college, and graduate school careers." (Preach Wikipedia, preach). Three years ago, you would never have caught me skipping classes, using my cell phone in class, or sitting in... you guessed it - the nosebleed section. On one hand, I absolutely cannot wait to be out of school and teaching in my own classroom. On the other hand, it freaks me to think that I will eventually touch the lives and underdeveloped mind of hundreds of children to come, children who will eventually grow up to become the future leaders of their generation.
Ever since popularized videos like Suli Breaks' spoken word poem on"Why I Hate School But Love Education" and Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk on "How Schools Kill Creativity" I've begun to question everything. At first it was a very cynical, and unhealthy type of questioning that gave me fuel to justify the "senoritis" I was feeling. I have been a very successful student all my life, and that's because I've learned to navigate the system. When it comes to skills like memorization, test-writing, and exam-preparation, I am an expert in my field. Eventually, this made me feel inadequate and ill-prepared for life in the Real World. I wondered what life would have been like if I had been exposed to the same kind of education that Logan LaPlante calls "Hackschooling." The more people I met and spoke to about the crisis around schools, the more I realized that the school system I have loved all my life was failing people all over the country. School - which gave me my friends, my hobbies, my love for learning... was starting more and more to resemble the factories they once were.
"There are three things you need to remember as a teacher, " Bev Kokerus said in a recent workshop on occasional teaching at the Faculty of Education. "The first is be memorable. The second is to find the positives. If there are none, turn the negatives into a positive. And last is to take care of yourself and your family." I needed to find the positives again. Once I began to do some soul searching, it wasn't that hard.
The first question to ask myself was why I am here? I'm here because I want to be. I think back to my first few weeks at Queen's and how it was absolutely enchanting. As I delved deeper into my studies the beautiful scenery faded into the background and I began to take all the little things for granted. I stopped noticing how pretty the trees looked against the bright blue sky every morning, how incredibly serene the sunrise overlooking the lake was, how calming the quiet hum inside Douglas library could be... I wasn't alone in this process. The effects of senioritis were widespread, and as we entered our fifth year of university many of my colleagues and I had stopped noticing our surroundings entirely. Get good grades, get a job, pass that course... no wonder school had begun to look so bleak!
Occasionally, I will find myself falling back into that predictable slump I try so hard to avoid. Turn the negatives into a positive. Okay, so I admit I have met some people in my young life who were never meant for school. I also know people who never had the opportunity to have an education - and I know how powerful schooling can be in a person's life. Perhaps, my initial disillusionment and perhaps overly optimistic perception of schools had not been in vain. Yes, senioritis is very real, but I also know that I am lucky to be here. And yes, schooling and the education system as it exists today can still be crappy, but need to reframe my thinking and see this as a challenge rather than permanent flaw. While it is important to stay curious, we also need develop a healthy ways to question the world (that doesn't turn you into a pessimist). School can still be that fun, magical place where learning takes place and I can keep my starry-eyed optimism about the world. It is now my mission as an educator to help students see it that way too.
Teacher, Friend, Adventurer. (Not necessarily in that order)