As we may know, I’m currently studying Secondary Education: English Literature at my university, which in the U.S. would allow me to teach English Literature at the high school level.
(As we may not know, I’m currently having an existential crisis about if it’s what I really want to do, but we can talk about that another time.)
For my Educational Psychology class this semester, I’m required to observe a total of twelve (yeah, twelve–it’s kind of a lot–or at least sounds like it when I don’t have this mysterious thing I’ve heard about called “free time”) hours in a classroom, looking at things like human development, learning theories, and teaching strategies. I was lucky enough to be approved to do my observations in a classroom with an English and Language Arts teacher doing both some 11th grade AP classes and some lower-level 12th grade classes. Which is amazing, because those are exactly the grade levels I ideally want to teach–in a perfect world where I get to pick my grades and classes–if I stick with high school English Literature.
Because this is my first semester as an Education major, this is also my first time doing anything within a classroom as a prospective teacher. So, I really could not have been luckier to have my first experiences in a classroom with the grade levels I want to teach, with a teacher who sounds like the kind that I want to be when I’m in the classroom myself.
Recently, I spent my first two hours inside this classroom, and I thought it would make for a nice little post on the blog, even if not strictly book-related.
(Also, maybe it will help me piece together things for the paper I have to eventually write about the observations.)
For the first hour, I got to spend my time watching a 12th grade class. They’re currently reading Beowulf–which I was excited to find out about because it is one of my favorites–and were wrapping up discussion about Unferth being a foil to Beowulf, before moving into epithets within the epic (me: *war flashbacks to my 12th grade Honors Brit Lit class*). They were an interesting class, more on the subdued side but willing to participate. I was pleased to observe the teacher looks to have built a good relationship with her students at this point in the year; things felt laid-back but structured–she was able to exchange jokes and laugh with the students, but all of the work got done by the bell.
In the second hour, I observed one of her 11th grade AP classes. They’re currently learning the terminology that will be important in the class through the year. She’s divided them into groups, and each one does a presentation and conducts an activity with the class–effectively, the students are teaching each other. I got to watch the group assigned to teach for that day, and it was an interesting experience. I never took an English AP class (I did take AP Gov, but my main memory about that is my teacher thanking me in my yearbook for laughing at his dumb jokes all year), nor can I really recall a moment yet in my high school or, even, college career, where the students taught. (This is bound to change by the end of the semester, since I do have a group project of a lesson plan to complete and conduct in my Reading & Writing course, eek!) So, I thought it was really neat the students got this chance. They did a really great job, too, and teacher jumped in where necessary to make corrections and provide additional information.
The most striking thing between these two classes was the student attitudes–the 11th grade class was extremely chatty, and teacher had to shush them and pull their attention back a handful of times. I also felt like they all looked so small! I’m only 5’1″ myself and have a blessing/curse of a baby-face, so sometimes I worry going into secondary/higher education that I’m not going to look like a teacher! So I was quite relieved when I sat there as a prospective teacher and actually felt like it!
Overall, I loved being in the classroom. Although I’m questioning the subject and grade level I may want to actually do, I have spent my life since Kindergarten knowing that being a teacher in some way, shape, or form was the job for me and I think that’s still true. It was an incredible experience to be inside the classroom, truly picturing myself in teacher’s shoes, for the first time, and to leave it feeling comfortable and positive. I am so excited to go back for the other ten hours I still need. My teacher I am observing even offered that I may sit in on some other English teachers at the school who teach other grade levels and have very different teaching styles, who would love to have me watch in their classroom, and I feel so lucky! She offered me some invaluable tips about time-management and structure, too, that I absolutely know I will take with me. I’ve never been to this school before, or even heard about it before this summer, but I am so happy to be a little part of it now and to learn everything that I can there.
I really can’t wait to see what else the students are going to learn about English while I’m there and to see how it is taught to them!
Do you have any experience teaching?
What are some of the most notable things you read in 11th and/or 12th grade (or just the last two years, if you’re not U.S.-based) of high school?