Wow, I haven't updated since 2010! I have a lot of catching up to do! After just getting on dA again (other than the occasional brief random fandom search) I've greatly enjoyed combing through the hundreds (literally!) of deviations my devwatch had accumulated over the past few years.... I know I probably still missed some, though! People on here are so phenomenally talented... wow!
Where to start? Well... my last journal was written after I graduated for the first time, anticipating starting the Master's in Teaching program that summer. Since then, my career and plans have changed a bit - but looking back from here, I think it's been all for the best! Let me start with what I'm doing now:
Tomorrow, I will walk - for the first time - into the classroom where I will teach English as a Second Language to K-6 students. I couldn't be more excited! I adore the work, can't wait to meet my amazing students, and am effervescently enthusiastic about everything about this career!!!! But the path that's gotten me here was kind of unexpected.
If you knew me in 2010, you probably knew I was planning to teach high school English, hoping to somehow send students into rhapsodies of lit appreciation. Shakespeare, Shelley, Stevenson, Poe - my students would discover and adore them all, writing deep cerebral inquiries and diving nose-first into close-readings and discussions while reinventing their peers' perceptions of the entire field of humanities. I took the first few grad-level classes of my teaching career with one of my best friends, ecstatic about planning curricula and creating lessons with super-powered student engagement. These plans were briefly halted by my discovery, in the first actual lesson I taught, that I wasn't actually sure how to teach a lesson. Somehow, when I got up in front of a room, whatever complex thoughts I was hoping to express turned into a rushed, flustered wordsplosion in which I attempted to cover the entirety of a literary movement and its centuries-long legacy in a 20-minute mini-lesson. "You were.... enthusiastic!" was one of the comments I got. "You seem to really love your subject! But I was a little confused."
That person, being very polite, was making the understatement of the year. Sure, I was enthusiastic - but any merit my lesson may have had was immediately overshadowed by the simple fact that it was also immensely confusing. The trend continued in later lessons, presented to that class and others. No matter how carefully I planned out a lesson, my delivery turned into garbled mush. When I finally learned to slow down and relax a bit (relax? this was literature! this was the world-essence of being itself! how could I possibly relax?), toned my lesson content level down a bit (realistically grade-level, rather than dissertation-hopeful), and expanded my repertoire (thanks to the teaching program) from lecture-ish rambling to student-centered, engaging-activity-filled lessons that were at least comprehensible, and even started to be a little bit successful (my tutoring students were really learning?) I faced a new problem.
"You care about the students, that's clear," was the new usual comment. "But
are you SURE you don't want to teach elementary?" Those high or middle school students, everyone was sure, were just waiting to devour tiny me-of-the-squeaky-voice-and-awkwardly-hopeful-manner alive. Undaunted, I waved all their comments off My tutoring had been successful! My small group book discussions were entranced! - flailing excitedly into my new student-teaching internship in an 8th grade, high-poverty-area class. If this were an RPG, this is when the World of Warcraft logo screen would come on, emblazoned ice-demon declaring:
"You are NOT PREPARED."
I wasn't. Not at all. Assuming from my tutoring and small-group experiences that all classes were a pantheon of pure academic purpose, all students overtly thirsting for study, I was more than surprised coming up against kids who cursed when complimented on their papers and led mini-revolts against class work, keeping the noise level at the average approximate level of a Super Bowl game where the ref had just made a highly disagreeable call. Flustered, I tried all the techniques I could think of from my classroom management books and classes (I'd gotten an A! My papers had been great! Didn't that mean I would be an expert?). Unfortunately, I tried them all in rapid succession, implementing and then discarding each type within a day. My main attempt to quiet students down consisted of feebly raising a hand in the air and saying softly: "I'll wait til it's quiet. I want everyone to have a chance to hear and be heard." Of course, it was never quiet, and I was never patient enough to wait long, so I'd plunge headlong into my carefully planned (and pretty engaging and fun, I'd thought, under other circumstances) lesson as soon as the noisiest voices had abated, holding only about two students' attention and successfully confusing the entire rest of the room, who hadn't heard or didn't listen to the instructions. I didn't understand what went wrong. These lessons were fun, they were student-centered, thoughtful, tailored to students' interests! I cared about the students
I liked them and respected them, even if I was a little intimidated by them (that, unfortunately, was the part that showed). My cooperating teacher, a loud, wonderfully-effective teacher with a sure confidence that the kids respected, helped me the best she could but I was still lost. Why was everything going insane?
My attempt went on for about a month and a half before grinding to a halt. At the time, though my advisor sadly recommended it, I was terrified to withdraw I didn't want to be the kind of person who would quit, didn't want to seem like I was giving up on the students, didn't want to abandon them when sometimes I could so clearly see their vital and creative minds. I was about to start a poetry unit! But at the same time, I was equally petrified of staying. One year in a great teacher's classroom could set students up to excel, I'd heard but a few months with a bad teacher would push them back almost as far. Eventually, as the semester withdrawal deadline came near, I had to make a decision. After lots of advice and thought, I withdrew. It was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make thankfully, I have amazing family, friends and Pierce, who helped me through it and back up to yayness.
Having failed in the secondary school arena, I tried to apply to PhD programs, figuring I'd channel my lit passions into long dissertations on the Romantic conception of the monstrous, marginalization of the strange, fascination with the creative spirit. I could write books, teach college students! Life couldn't be better than the ivory tower! I wrote long, carefully-tailored ode-application-letters to grad schools, admiring each feature of their programs, convincing myself I'd be the perfect candidate. My wonderful professors graciously wrote me recommendation letters as I consumed the library's oeuvre of litcrit with the voraciousness of a famished bookworm, waiting for the universities' response. They said no. And no, and no, and well they really did think I was an excellent candidate, but definitely not the one they were looking for at that time. And more no's, a total of 12. It was the end of the summer, and I was lost. What was I meant to do now?
But then came a call. While student teaching, I had signed up to take the last class I needed to graduate, only to find out the class had been cancelled due to too few members. Fortunately, one of my favorite professors had a wonderful solution. Kindly, she said she had been hoping to try a class in teaching teachers to create service learning courses, only she hadn't finalized her plans. Would I be interested in an independent study? Yeah I was! I dove into the class, drawing on her guidance to make a course focused on using multicultural lit to build cultural understanding and community dialogue and fell in love. Here was a way the humanities could make a difference! Lacking only a few classes to complete the university's newly-formed ESOL concentration in teaching, I decided to pursue that path, thinking that here was my chance! I could teach English Language Learners, primarily in small classes and groups. Less management difficulties, the luxury of time to individualize instruction and tailor my lessons to their learning styles, the chance to empower students to advocate for themselves and their communities, gain the education they needed to change their worlds it would be ideal. My professor introduced me to an amazing, effervescent ESL teacher who let me volunteer with her and mentored me, helping me see that I really, actually, might be able to succeed in doing what I loved, and I took the remaining classes I needed. I dove into the work, studying deeply, as I usually do, and unfortunately didn't spend as much time with friends as I now wish I had (the times I did were some of the best ever, and the people the most endlessly fascinating and fun I regret not hanging out with them more) but finally I had the chance to student-teach again. This time, it would be in an elementary school, teaching K-5, and a middle school, teaching 6-8.
I was honestly kind of petrified of teaching middle school again, since I'd failed so epically at it the last time, and didn't know how well I'd do at elementary but my tutoring and volunteering with the ESL teacher had convinced me this was a field I loved, and I was resolute to stick with it. Maybe I'd kind of fallen into the field, rather than pursuing it from the start but the falling was falling in love, and I adored my new vocation. Amazingly, I was assigned some of the best teachers I've ever known as cooperating teacher-mentors, and all three of them, with my professors and supervisor, guided me through a rocky but breathlessly-exciting transition from neon-green neophyte to teacher-hopeful who was actually (!) starting to improve. I got more confident, found a management system that worked, drew deep from the much-needed supply of guidance my amazing mentors were always happy to provide, enjoyed every day of adventures with the endlessly creative and unique ESOL students and somehow, strangely, fumblingy, ecstatically, graduated.
My first job interview came two days later; my ideal job, ten minutes after that. I couldn't believe it when I hung up the phone. They wanted me? Was I sure they hadn't mistaken me for some other much more talented and qualified teacher? I actually didn't recognize when they did offer me the job at first, as I was busy telling them I would love to meet again, but had a morning interview the next day, until they asked "Well, has the other school offered you a contract too?" and it hit me. Now, after an idyllic summer nannying two fun kids while cooking up a storm of sometimes-edible, sometimes-unrecognizable recipes, I'm finishing up a week of awesome teacher-training seminars, preparing to set up my classroom in a few days. I still can't believe it! While I've been my usual error-prone bad-timing socially-awkward self the past week (caught a virus and slept through my alarm while on Nyquil, accidentally wrote all over my right pant leg with a pen that poked a hole in my purse, narrowly avoided giving everyone the plague from coughsplosions, forgot how to sign onto my email, got spectacularly lost on the freeway) I've also had an amazing time learning at the wonderful new-teacher training week (my mental teaching-toolbox is bursting now! I can't wait to try everything out!) and hanging out with awesome family and phenomenal Pierce who love me anyway (and he is almost family now the wedding is next summer, yay!). So overall
life is amazing. I'm really not trying to brag about my job in these rough economic times , as it's really not my doing that I got it I was so incredibly lucky, and everyone helped me SO much I'm just super-grateful for the phenomenal gift life has handed me, practically wrapped in a bow. I hope everyone can find their dreams like this! I really hope I'll someday be able to live up to the hopes all the people who've helped me so much have for me and I hope I can start sparking students' excitement to learn asap! I absolutely can't wait.