"This lesson plan is written for elementary school. You really think this would be good for 10th grade?" My professor looked at me as I had tears in my eyes. I thought I had done so well, and here we were, in her office with me questioning why I failed the first unit plan that I had ever written.
I had worked on it for hours and hours, put so much effort into searching and finding the right things, edited it over and over again hoping I was doing what the professor expected of me. I had to stay up until the late hours of the morning for a week before it was due to trying to fit in all of my other homework in addition to this 200-page lesson plan.
I was so dead set on writing a lesson plan on Hamlet for my first teachers' practicum course. It is something I'm passionate about and something I have studied the ins and outs of since high school. I had a plan on what lessons I wanted to do for what acts in the play, and how I would do them. As I was writing those out for this specific professor, she told me that I wasn't on the right track and I couldn't use the lessons plans that I had intended. Already frustrated with the initial assignment, I rethought my whole plan for Hamlet and wrote in the lesson plans that this professor wanted.
I had no idea what I was doing, and for the majority of the outline for the lesson, I was guessing on what to write because I had no knowledge of how to do this. When I asked questions in class, I was given a "you should already know this, I'm not taking time out of my busy day to explain this to you" the majority of the time. I was heartbroken. This was the first class I had for the teacher preparation program, how was I supposed to learn not knowing how to write a lesson plan or even a unit outline for that matter?
Still, I was determined to write a lesson plan that I could use in my classroom in the future. So here I went, taking the lesson plans that I could find that this professor used as examples and trying to apply it to my Shakespeare lesson plan. It was really really hard, these lesson plans that this professor used made absolutely no sense, they were things that I had never seen in lessons that I was taught, and the most important, this professor never taught us how to use them in a unit.
As I am writing this, there is so much confusion in what this professor wanted. There was little instruction, and in class, I didn't get answers to the questions I had. Instead of teaching something, we had "work time" and she left the room instead of helping us learn what we should know for student teaching or even teaching in the future.
I was super frustrated, but again I was determined to do this right. I even made a game for my unit plan. I found online things that I could implement in the classroom, and I can honestly say that this unit plan was the hardest thing I've worked on in my college career. I stayed up working until 4 am for a whole week and when I finished it, it was over 100 pages long.
I was so proud of the unit plan I had made, I even put it in a binder and plastic bag, in case it rained I didn't want the rain to ruin what I had worked so hard on. The day that I turned it in, I was so careful and so excited, thinking that I was going to get great feedback. I found out that we didn't have the class that day, and we were to turn it into the professor's office at the start of the hour. Great! I had time to work on some other things.
So I walked to the professor's office, handed it to them and they didn't say anything to me, threw my binder on the floor with a few others, and then shooed me away. Just by that act, I had an immediate surge of nervousness. How could she do that in front of me?
I was so proud, and to have my professor literally throw it on the ground in front of my face without reading it… was I going to fail this class? I couldn't let it get to me, I had other classes to do, plus I worked damn hard on that thing, I had to get an ok grade right?
Very wrong. The day that she gave us our units back, I eagerly looked at my grade. What? 32%!? How? That has to be a mistake. Due to the fact that I didn't get a 79% on the unit plan, I failed the class! How? I'd been doing so well… I literally had an A in the class and I had to sit there and fail because of this?
Thank god the professor gave the class four days to revise, 95% of the class failed. Only two passed, with C+s as grades at that. I immediately met her in their office hours after looking at their feedback. A hundred pages of my lesson plan were riddled with snide remarks such as "really, you think that students learn by doing this?"; "this is not right, you don't know how to do this"; "this video is pointless and not good for your lesson"; and even some pages, even some lessons were crossed out saying that they were unimportant and she didn't even look at them.
I was absolutely torn apart and all I could do was cry. I was so proud of this unit plan, and this professor took what I thought was a great plan, and completely dragged it six feet under. I sat in her office asking her over and over how I could make each lesson better, and I never got a clear answer, I was just told not to do what I did. I even took some ideas that I had done in my classes that we learned Hamlet in, was I learning wrong?
I questioned my ability to write lesson plans with this professor talking in my ear, and for those for days, I wracked my brain on how I could make it better. In the end, I ended up simplifying a lot of the things I wanted to do, and I made it the way my professor wanted, not the way I thought it would work in the classroom. I stayed up for three days straight trying to get this thing right.
When I handed it to them for the second time, I already felt defeated thinking I would just give up and fail the class. The professor ended up passing me, but just barely. I wasn't even happy that I passed the class anymore, I felt like I couldn't be a good teacher, I thought that my dream since I was in middle school was over, and I never wanted to write another lesson plan ever again. Or write anything ever again. Not even for fun.
I felt like I couldn't write anything remotely good anymore. My overdramatic-self thought my life was over, and I was going to fail as a teacher. Just because of this one crappy professor I had. I went to some of my teacher friends, other colleagues with my major, and even teachers I had in high school who taught me Hamlet and had them take a look at my lesson, and they ALL thought it was amazing and all the edits I did to pass the class didn't make sense at all.
They encouraged me that I was doing the right thing, I was on the right path, and that I should keep trying and going down my path, and that I shouldn't listen to this teacher at all. So here I am, with one crappy professor I questioned my ability to write and my ability to teach.
I have learned that in my career of writing in schools, negative feedback just allows the student to not find the appeal of writing. My experience that that professor gave me really poor feedback and was not willing to cooperate with me and tell me what I was doing wrong so I could try and fix it was a really negative experience, and it completely shut me down to the idea of writing for a very long time.
I felt like my writing wasn't good enough and I just didn't see the worth. I don't want any student of mine to have the same experience that I had. I want to keep an open mind with students and would like to allow them to write freely about anything that they desire. I think it is really important to give positive feedback in the classroom, help students understand the importance of writing, help students learn the rules and standards of writing, and learn how to write freely.
I think learning how to write creatively, write about their passions, and finding the balance between creative outlets and traditional writing is vital when teaching students how to write effectively. With having these ideas in mind, I believe I will be able to teach my students effectively in the long run.
It is experiences like these that prove to me that I am in the right profession. This is why I want to become an English teacher, so I can make sure that my students will never have an experience like I did.