Welcome to U of M! …again.

This past Monday, I had my orientation for the Master’s program in which I am enrolled.  Strangely familiar and yet utterly alien, I found myself surrounded by many fellow grad students who – with the exception of a few – are considerably older and more experienced than I am. Many of them are married and have children; others have spent a number of years in a different career. After being one of the “big kids” as a college senior, suddenly I am just a kid again. Some of my classmates are old enough to be my parents, or perhaps are even older than my parents.

Today is only my third day of class, but I am already exhausted. Unlike undergrad, when by my last two semesters I was able to skillfully B.S. my way through certain classes or navigate my way through which information was important and which was less so, I already find myself immersed in a world that I know very little about. Every reading and assignment changes my perspective on education and its different aspects drastically. My experience teaching and working with children has largely been attached to Irish dance, or to Catechism, Youth Group, or Vacation Bible School. Teaching children how to think about and solve math problems, learn how to read, and other basic academic or literacy skills is something I have no experience with. This is all brand new for me, and again, I feel like I’m just a kid pretending to be a teacher.

I have to unlearn all of my shortcuts, habits, and things I do with ease.

I have to unpack all of my math processes, my reading processes, my writing processes.

I have to be able to read the minds of my students and decipher their thinking in ways I would never have thought to do.

I have to change the way I speak and what my body language says.

Woman-Teacher-Cartoon-by-K-Whiteford

This week has truly illustrated for me just how much change I will have to undergo in order to be a good teacher. This isn’t just about learning how to teach a set curriculum – nothing could irritate me more than the ignorant mantra of “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I have to change so much about myself in order to be both a better teacher and a better person. I don’t think that you can be a terrible person and truly be a good teacher; children learn so much about what it means to be a person, and how to interact with others, from their teachers. Especially second and third grade, based on my observations. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to remembers their second or third grade teacher vividly and references them as a huge inspiration or having made a great impact on them.

To be quite frank, I’m slightly terrified of being in the classroom already on Monday. This Master’s program doesn’t pull any punches – they put us in the classroom in our second week and have us start observing, teaching, and interacting with the students immediately. In my heart, I recognize that the passion and excitement I feel, although somewhat clouded by the stress and exhaustion of such a crazy week, are a sign from the Holy Spirit that this is where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing. I am meant to teach. But like all callings, it’s plenty scary. I guess I’m going to have to jump in feet first and do my best to start swimming.

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