I’m on the home stretch. Only 14 instructional days left until finals begin. Looking back at the semester, I have to say it is a blur. Looking ahead, I’m pleased to say that I am ahead of schedule in two of my classes. The other two are on schedule. I have to attribute this to the acceptance and willingness at my school.
My students are fantastic. There are days where I know I’ll think back to writing this and wonder “What the heck was I thinking!?!”, but all in all, they’ve stuck with me. My students all know that I am a first year teacher, despite my best efforts to hide it. I think this is a good thing, because inexperience, aside young teachers bring a lot to the table.
Firstly, I think I bring a sense of exploration. This is the first time I’m fully teaching these classes. I’m exploring too. I know where I want to take my courses, but I have no problem stopping to smell the roses on the way. I found this especially in my psychology class. Going into it, I thought it was going to be lots of notes with me preaching daily. Yes, that happens, but I try to keep it down. Why? Because my students offhandedly ask phenomenal questions. These questions almost never arise after I ask if anyone has any questions. To be honest, they usually arise from a student challenging what they’re learning, which means that we are getting far more out of the course than we ever would with boring old notes. While I always feel like I’m in the hot seat, I know they are pushing me to be a better teacher too.
Secondly, my students see me make mistakes. More than I would like, I goof up. I do my best to be honest with my students, in order to model the behaviours I would like them to exhibit when they goof up too. I think this is a pinnacle part of a relationship I have with one of my students. He is on the bubble of passing one of my classes right now, because he got quite far behind. He is a very passive student normally, but when he feels wronged, he gets absolutely aggressive. The first time he had an outburst, it scared the bananas out of me. But, I learned to deal with it. A few days later, after he had calmed down, we had a long conversation about what he is doing in my class, and what he and I can do to make sure he is successful. The conversation was a two-way street — we negotiated with the behaviours that bothered us. There were somethings that I wouldn’t budge on (and he understood), such as him dropping the f-bomb, and others where I was really flexible on (we organized an assessment plan for him that he found manageable and not overwhelming; we talked about what I can do when he is feeling frustrated that will calm him down rather than agitate him, yet still let me get my point across). The conversation(s) — there were a few, since we didn’t get it quite right the first try — taught me a lot about what it means to be a good teacher. I have a great deal of respect for him, and he know shows a great deal of respect toward me as well.
Thirdly, new teachers bring chocolate. This one is a bit of a crapshoot, but I like things to come in threes. I’m the youngest in my family, and my Gramma is quite proud to have all her grandchildren through college and onto their careers. As the last one to convocate, I think I got a little bit of extra pride spillover. At Christmas time, she slipped me three little bags of chocolate toonies (for non-Canadians, they are our $2 coins, except made of chocolate) to handout to my students. She knows how much I love teaching and chocolate, so this is one of the most meaningful things anyone has ever done for me. I almost cried in class today when a student, who normally is a chatty-Charlie looked up from munching on his toonie and ever so sincerely said, “Miss Thibeault, please thank your grandmother for us.” Call me mushy, but I might be choked up right now.
Gosh. I cannot believe how much I’ve learned in the last four months, despite the blur they seemed to be. I have my students to thank.