Student Teaching: Placement Switch

It is exactly the middle of November. As most of you know, I’m in the middle of student teaching. The way student teaching works is that your semester is split into two placements. My certification will be to teach 7th-12th Grade English , and as a result my first placement was at a middle school. Those eighth grade students completely and wholly stole my heart. The last day I was there my cooperating teacher passed around a card for them to sign. Each period thought that they’d expertly hidden this card, as they tried to pass it around.

They forgot that teachers have eyes in the back of their heads.

They were going to hand the card to me at the end of the day, but some student accidentally packed it away with their books and made off with it in their backpack. They sheepishly handed me this light purple envelope–all that remained of their thank-you. I laughed, laughed, and laughed again. You just have to love the eighth grade.

Now, life has swung in an entirely different direction. I’m at my second placement working with tenth graders. Art explodes from every corner of this school. They understand that art is as necessary to life as lunch period. The students are filled with thoughts. Creativity is a valued strength at this school. This school welcomed me about six seconds after I walked through the building.

Now, life is rather different. Teaching high school English means that you have to prep multiple materials for multiple classes. I’d never really thought through that one. I entered my student teaching experience, embarrassingly without even a folder. Now, I carry binders, folders, and have developed a system necessary for survival. Forced improvement can be a beautiful work of art.

Now, I am learning how to grapple with texts I was afraid to teach. The class I’m teaching is going through Othello at the moment. All things Shakespeare happen to be a deep passion of mine, but for some odd reason I had never read Othello in any of my classes or personal reading. My cooperating teacher had kindly emailed in advance to tell me that we’d be covering Othello during my time at the school. Panic ripped through my chest. You don’t just wing teaching Shakespeare, and Shakespeare requires heavy interpretation. English teachers can be a rather opinionated bunch when it comes to textual interpretation. I feared getting it all wrong.

But…I decided to shove down my panic, and move forward. That’s a lesson I’ve been learning in more areas than just student teaching–shove down the fear, move forward. I began studying Othello, grappling with the text, characters, and themes.

Now, we just finished a lesson segment where the students acted out a scene from the play. Helping students untangle the rich language of Shakespeare, laughing as they add “wandering torchbearers” to their performances, and applauding as they leap out of their comfort zones to perform in front of their peers is amazing.

Now, now is the time to learn, now is the time to face silly fears such as teaching Shakespeare, now is the time to build relationships with students, and now is the time to revel in distinct joy.