Today was the first day of practicum and, golly, there are already so many things to write.
I can’t really say what was more important or interesting: the scavenger hunt around school that we did to get to know the place a little better, meeting both my school advisors (although I had already met one at the BCBEA Pro-D conference on Friday), trying to memorize all the names of the students in the first class I observed (and succeeding!) or watching a dance dress rehearsal after school (which was ridiculously good, by the by).
There was so much going on at some point I stopped trying to look for something consistent to observe in particular and just started taking in as much as I could in my notes and mental process. I’m not saying that I had a sudden moment of inspiration and made a conscious choice to take everything in, but rather trying to focus my thoughts on a concise point was too much to add on top of the natural process of being overwhelmed with meeting new people, learning names and finding myself in a new environment. Because of this though, I learned my first major lesson of the practicum: unmet expectations are not a bad thing.
I did feel quite overwhelmed. Watching my school advisors (SAs) teach made me realize that I might just be in a place similar to their’s not too far off in the future. I expected my first class to be all observing and was frankly worried that the students wouldn’t like me (I’m always a little afraid people wouldn’t like me though, haha). Before the bell rang though I was able to name almost all of them correctly though, and I recognized one of the students in another English 8 class I observed in the afternoon. My business SA also mentioned that he’d be clearing out a desk for me which was a really pleasant surprise. To some extent I was worried that I’d get in the way of my SAs but this gesture made me feel quite the opposite: I felt so welcomed and I was so, so thankful for his suggestion. In hindsight I guess it’s funny how things like someone suggesting you have your own desk can make a school suddenly feel more home-like. I’m glad though. My slight expectation (read: major worry!) that I’d be a bit of a nuisance was pushed aside with ease; in this case, my unmet expectations were definitely not a bad thing.
Now because the first class had a longer work period I had the time to muster enough courage to meet almost every student in the room. On the other hand the second class I observed in the afternoon had a longer lecture session where more activities included being led by the teacher. The afternoon was warm and sunny too and I found myself observing with a little less gusto than I had in the morning. This lack of energy definitely added to my reluctance to learn more names, and quite honestly I was quite tired. Seeing my English SA interact with her class was definitely enjoyable – she had a real knack for bantering with the students while retaining her authority in leading the class. Watching the students joke with her made me really miss the kids I knew back home though; I was a youth counselor for four years with a junior high (grades 7-9) youth group and really enjoyed all the interaction I had had with the students. I suddenly felt a little discouraged; my lack of banter with any of the students around me made me wonder if I would do well in my practicum. I realized though, that my expectations were totally skewed by my memories of my youth group and that my lack of confidence stemmed in part from simply being tired.
Even then I was unsure of how the rest of my practicum would go and somewhat troubled. That is, until my English SA pulled me aside after class and asked which other teachers I would like to meet and observe. In all the hustle and bustle of the day I had forgotten to ask my SAs for help with finding other teachers to observe! Even though she must have been tired from just having finished a full day, my English SA personally walked with me to meet teachers so I could sit in on their classes tomorrow! Her consideration and kindness in action was a wonderful way to end the day. And again, unmet expectations are not a bad thing. To be sure, I didn’t experience immediately playful chatter with the students, but if I had fixated on that I would have done my SA an injustice by appreciating her consideration much less.
All in all I have been encouraged greatly by the actions of both my SAs. They, in addition to the calming nature of my faculty advisor (FA), the vice principals and the principal and other staff, have already given me much to be thankful for on this first day. My SAs demonstrated much kindness in encouraging words, in the time they spent and in the consideration they demonstrated. Already I am looking forward to the next day.