Now that my summer teaching experience is behind me, I’ve had some time to really think on it and what I got out of it. Here’s my list of four big things I took away from teaching this summer:
1. Teaching is hard. I always knew this, but I got it handed back to me on a silver platter this summer. Teaching kids everyday is a different ballgame than teaching a university class once a week. Teaching kids makes my job look like a cakewalk. What is so difficult about teaching? Well….
- I have to bring my A game every moment of every day. Yeah, I slacked once in awhile (so did the kids), but we tended to slack together. We rode the wave of being totally into what we were doing and needing to back off a bit and coast for just a day or just a part of a day.
- I got to teach whatever I wanted to long as it was appropriate and related to the broad topic of English. That made things fun. I had room to easily respond to my students. Most teachers in this day and age do not have this freedom. Most find themselves restricted in ways I have never experienced in terms of what they teach, how they teach it, and when they teach it. This might sound easy on the surface, particularly if you are not a teacher, because it sounds like things are laid out for the teachers. But I assure you, having the freedom to teach and be responsive to my students in the moment – while difficult – cannot be as taxing as having that freedom taken away.
- I got plenty of time to plan. I really only taught in the mornings. This gave me the space to think through what happened that day and what made sense to do the next. This made the experiences for my students better. In the real world, teachers are never given this luxury and when it does pop up someone fills it with a meeting.
2. Teaching is filled with bureaucracy. I cannot even imagine the levels of bureaucracy classroom teachers have to deal with on a regular basis. I about lost it over the rules regarding how to get copies made for my students if I needed them. I couldn’t even tell you the rules except it wasn’t a matter of giving me a code and showing me where the machine was. It was something along the lines of having to email what I needed to a particular person within a certain amount of days in advance and then someone would (I think) deliver the copies to me. I decided we could do without copies during the summer. I never got a grasp on how to make it work. If I had a breakdown over that one thing I cannot imagine I would last a day in a classroom.
3. Teaching is exhausting. If you have a kid, go let all his/her teachers know how much you appreciate the work they do. RIGHT NOW. I will wait. Remember how I mostly worked just half days? I came home pretty much every afternoon and took a nap. I am a wimp! And I know teachers who work all day long, put up with all kinds of nonsense, and then show up in the evening to take a class with me so they can get their Masters degree. How any of them are staying awake and actually doing good work is now beyond my comprehension. They are superheroes. Seriously.
4. The kids are amazing. No matter how many silly rules the outside world tried to impose, no matter how tired I got, the kids were amazing. The fact that I got to work with actual adolescents this summer was so much fun and so eye opening. I learned how much I love high school students. I could never see myself working with them before, but I can now. I loved that I got to try out the very stuff I tell teachers to do (and hey….it went pretty well…thank goodness!).
5. It brought me down to earth. I have a whole new level of understanding and respect for teachers. Yes, I was a classroom teacher way back in the day, but I needed this experience to connect me back to what I was doing. To give me purpose. To help me better understand what’s going on in the world outside the university.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say about my experience as the year goes on. But for now, I am off for a wonderful 10 day trip to Asheville, NC where I will be learning about how to design online courses. Stay tuned.