At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, my English III students were finding their seats, raising their hands for lunch count, and chattering nervously to one another in their first few minutes as upperclassmen. They asked a myriad of excellent questions about their reading requirements, textbooks, and what types of writing they would be expected to complete. And I’m sure that the rest of that whirlwind half-day was filled with bonding and new experiences for all my juniors, seniors, and theatre students.
However, I can’t be sure that was exactly what happened, because at 8:00 a.m. Thursday, I had just woken up in a hospital bed at HaysMed, where a nurse checked my blood pressure, took my temperature, gave me a Percocet, and told me to get up carefully so I didn’t strain my incisions.
It was my first school day I’d missed in twenty years. And I didn’t think about it the entire day.
The day before at in-services, I coped with shooting pains on my left side in the morning, and by noon, I drove myself to the hospital for testing. In a matter of five hours, I had been scanned, tested, shuffled, diagnosed, and prepped. So much for the classroom prep (My posters aren’t all up!) and copies of syllabi I’d needed to make (How could I have waited so late to make those!). I figured I could wing a half day, and give some simple plans for Friday with a simple crack of my veteran teacher knuckles.
Before my surgery, I went through the pre-op interview with my doctor. When I asked her if I could go back on Monday, she frowned at me.
“No, no, no. You need to rest next week. If you do a good job of resting, you can go back the next Monday. Take it easy. Your classroom will wait for you.”
During the next hour while I awaited the operating room, I worried. I told my husband that my classroom wasn’t ready, that I had unfinished lesson plans, and that my secretary and principal had no idea what was happening to me. Worrying takes some time, though, and while I tried to worry, they wheeled me in for an anesthetic cocktail that the nurse guaranteed would stop any anxiety (or conscious thought).
When I woke up an hour later, it took me a few minutes to remember my own identity, much less that school would start the next day with or without me. When my husband met me in the recovery room, he greeted me with a long stream of words.
“I called your principal and secretary. They have a veteran sub for you tomorrow and Friday. Don’t worry about making plans. She’ll handle it. For next week, your friend Sarah will sub for you and will come by the house to pick up your plans and talk over any issues. Also, I called your parent friend, Kim, and she and the theatre kids are going to clean up your classroom tonight. They know where everything goes, anyway. Your seminar can help put up your posters tomorrow to occupy them. The English teacher next door texted to check up on you, and I told her you might need her to look in on your classroom. And you are going to rest.”
Not that I had much choice. Strong pain meds demand no less than total submission. It was a long, painful night, plagued by several first-day-of-school dreams. But when I woke up at 8:00 a.m. for a vitals check, I adjusted my blankets, sent a quick prayer to my new students, and then went back to sleep.
I had amazing friends, understanding bosses, experienced subs, empathic students, and helpful colleagues. None of those things would change, despite my absence from my classroom. I closed my eyes. It would wait.
Ellis High School
11-12 English, Theatre and Forensics
Editor's Note: Today's post is written by Holli Dawson, a pre-service teacher from WSU.
Let me preface this post by explaining that I love storms: I love the way the moisture in the air clings to the inside of my nose, the way the sky darkens as swollen clouds rapidly consume what was a clear blue sky just minutes before. I get chills when those first droplets of water touch the ground and I can’t help but smile when the thunder booms and echoes through the sky and the lightning illuminates its surroundings, contrasting with the darkness.
I have always referred to the first week of classes as the calm before the storm. Sure, you feel a little overwhelmed on the first day and you probably already have some (read: tons of) assigned reading and writing, but the first week is the calmest week you will endure during the semester.
As the typical Kansas storm forms in mere minutes, the academic storm forms in just one week: the blink of an eye to the student who works, takes classes, and has a field placement.
It is with eager anticipation that I await the moment when classes are in full swing but I also equally appreciate the days building up to that moment: days like today.
Today was my second day at my placement. I was armed with a desk, two months’ worth of lesson plans, a new seating chart, and my tangled nerves, twisted into an uncomfortable knot in the pit of my stomach. Nerves aren’t all bad for me, in fact the extra energy (read: borderline anxiety) pushes me to put myself out there and do my best. As “my” students filled the classroom, the hair on my arms began to stand upright. I donned a brave smile, greeted each student over the blaring end-of-passing-period music, and directed them to the seating chart. Over the course of the class period I tried to match names with faces and then test myself by passing back papers. I failed my test miserably: miserably but with a smile. “This is the calm”, I thought to myself. This is the part where the darkness fills the sky and the water droplets begin to fall. I love the calm. I also love the storm.
I am the kind of person who likes to approach a problem, especially a challenge, head on. I am beyond excited to throw myself into teaching this class, bonding with these students, and absorbing everything I can from my CT while adding my own personal flair when appropriate. I am ready to try, succeed, fail, reflect, and try again.
As I adventure through this semester, I intend to find my teaching voice. It’s easy to put on a brave face when you’re teaching something that has already been created, reflected upon, and improved but when you are creating something on your own as a novice instructor and giving it to students it is something between judgement day and a cruel experiment (for me at least). Will my students understand what I’m trying to explain? Will they think this is too easy or too hard? Will they pick up on my silly puns? Is this the best way to present the information? I think that this is a necessary thought process for teachers before they present their students with new material but there comes a point when you have to trust yourself and your voice and give it a try. If it doesn’t work, you reflect and revise. My other goal for this semester is to include as many hands-on activities as possible. Getting students actively involved in the classroom is one of the best ways to get students directly involved with their learning; this makes the students responsible for their own education.
Bring on the storm!
Ms. (Holli) Dawson
Holli Dawson is a secondary English teacher education candidate at Wichita State University, under the direction of Dr. Katherine Cramer. Holli is currently completing her Core III pre-student teaching experience at a high school in Wichita Public Schools, USD 259.
Re-blogged, with kind permission from: http://msdawson42.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-calm-before-storm.html
Editor's Note: Today's post is authored by Mary Harrison, a pre-service teacher from WSU.
Being the youngest of eight children, and being that I grew up during the height of the Super Nintendo’s popularity, I sometimes reflect on my childhood and conclude that I must have spent the majority of it waiting behind a line of my siblings to play Super Mario World or Street Fighter. While I enjoyed watching them play more than I would admit, I also felt an impossible eagerness to get in there and prove my button-smashing chops. The bottom of the totem pole was lonely, and I felt convinced that if I really wowed my (terrible) older siblings with Mario skills, they may somewhat respect me. This precarious amount of pressure inevitably proved counter-productive to my delusional aspirations. Once the warm controller made its way into my hands, I would almost certainly die immediately while my siblings bombarded me with a mixture of jeering laughter and rude impatience. Then I would ask the question that completely irritated them: “Can I hit the reset button?”
The idea of resetting appeals because it promises a new start within which one can demonstrate improvement. While this came in handy when my objective was conquering King Koopa and his minions, my goals and responsibilities have grown to include such lofty ambitions as “shape future generations through the power of education.” Having worked in schools for two years now, and having been a student for many more than that, I have come to view the start of a new school year as a giant reset button; it is from this point that we educators must figure out how to not die immediately, so to speak. In terms of teaching, beating the game means juggling lesson planning, classroom management, grading, parent communication, and an endless sea of bureaucratic red tape, all while remaining reflective and cognizant of our personal goals. Therefore, in order to not die immediately, it is paramount that I immediately set these personal goals.
When observing other teachers, I often feel like I am seven years old all over again, waiting for my turn at Mario. I am excited to take over, but also extremely nervous that I will fail. With each semester, however, I have grown braver. This year, I want to step in frequently and offer to lead classes. In past semesters, teachers have spontaneously asked me if I would like to lead a lesson without prior preparations: sometimes I said yes, but many times I passed. This semester, I am going to accept this opportunity every time that it comes my way. These impromptu lessons will prepare me for inevitable real classroom situations within which I will have to improvise for one reason or another. Give me that controller, teach!
My other major goal is inextricably tied to the first: to not expect perfection from myself. In the days preceding this school year, I laid in bed at night and broke myself into cold sweats worrying about designing and implementing original lesson plans. When I explore this anxiety, I find that at its heart lies an unrealistic desire to manufacture and demonstrate perfection (I can hear the veteran teachers belly laughing now). This sort of thinking flies in the face of the sort of experiences I should be treasuring during my year of student teaching: trial and error, learning from my mistakes, risks and rewards, constructive criticism. Unlike my evil siblings, my mentor teacher will not maliciously whittle away at my self-esteem every time I make a mistake. The students probably won’t notice my mistakes at all. As long as I remain genuine and honest, I feel my students, unlike my brothers and sisters, will be generous with the reset button…and thank goodness for that.
Mary Harrison is a secondary English teacher education candidate at Wichita State University, under the direction of Dr. Katherine Cramer. Mary is currently completing her Core III pre-student teaching experience at a high school in Wichita Public Schools, USD 259.
This was re-blogged, with kind permission, from: http://msmaryharrison.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-reset-button.html