As I neared my final semester at Salem State University it was hard to believe that I was actually graduating in a few short months.
As a fifth-year student who had a rough start to her college career, the end always seemed so far away. It was finally so close that I could taste it. While that scared me I was extremely eager to conquer this last semester of my undergrad and get my diploma.
I'm an education major with a concentration in early childhood education and care. This track sets me up for the opportunity to become a lead preschool teacher by allowing me to finish half of my state required student teaching hours during my undergrad.
While my goal is to become a second-grade teacher, I will have to complete the rest of my student teaching in my graduate program and then will be able to get a job as a public school teacher.
As an education major, the most frequent question I ask myself is, "How am I supposed to know what to do when I'm an actual classroom teacher?" I frequently wonder how much I need to know before I graduate and what I am going to be taught on the job.
I wonder the effect of having a teacher who is just starting out has on a young child. Do my students know that I'm brand new? Will they look back on their education and feel as though I was not the best teacher they ever had because of my newness? These are questions I ponder day after day.
During the fall 2019 semester, I had a chance to do my pre-practicum or my "test run" for student teaching at a private daycare. I had never taught children before. This was the first chance I had to bring my ideas to life while also following strict guidelines on how to optimize student engagement and learning.
However, shortly after I started my pre-practicum I realized that I was more or less an extra body in the classroom to change diapers and manage behavior rather than student teaching. This aggravated me to no end because my main goal during this time was to answer those unknown questions in my head. How do I teach?
After a long semester of learning what not to do I was eager to spend the spring semester at a more credible school. I was placed in a pre-kindergarten classroom.
When I entered the classroom on the first day I made clear goals in my head of what I wanted to get out of this final semester as a student-teacher. I wanted to know how to teach.
I tried harder in this classroom than I had ever tried before. While this preschool did not have strict curricular goals their style of teaching was something that opened my eyes to what it really means to learn. I offered to help in any way possible.
I went in every morning ready to teach, with engaging activity ideas that connected to standards. I was given freedom by my host teacher to make the classroom my own while still following the school's guidelines.
I was connecting with my students and building relationships. I was learning their interests, their hobbies, their friendships, their likes, and dislikes.
And then COVID-19 happened.
All of my classes went remote. All of the schools closed.
As I sit here and write this personal account I wonder how my students are doing.
Although my hours have been completed through the state I feel incomplete.
I feel that yet again I was stripped of my learning. While time keeps ticking and we are getting closer and closer to the last day of "school", that doesn't even feel like school whatsoever, I feel now more than ever that I am not ready. I feel that my unanswered questions are still as they were: unanswered.
I know that an older, more seasoned educator is reading this right now saying to themselves, "You're never ready to teach until you actually get out there and do it!" I understand that. I also know there are others reading this saying to themselves, "This is a worldwide pandemic you're lucky to be healthy and safe, cry me a river!" I understand that too. But after all of the hard work, confusion, trial, and error throughout my college career I never in my wildest dreams thought this was going to be the way it all ended. But it is.
With each passing day, I wonder if this was what was supposed to happen. Maybe this is a way of life telling me that I am ready and that I need to stop feeling insecure about what I'm capable of.
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