I have often wished that I would have kept a journal my first year teaching out of college. I taught in a First Grade classroom and cried every Friday to my mentor across the hall. Literally. I didn’t know how I would survive another week. She gave me a weekly pep talk and encouraged me that I would, I could and it will all be ok. Since I was too busy surviving, I was too tired at the end of the day to put together cohesive sentences that reflected any form of intelligence. And, I really didn’t want to share how much I was struggling. It was a wonderfully challenging year with many hilarious stories that did not fall under the umbrella of what I was taught in college. They were real life situations like “What to do when child poops his pants at dismissal and you have an entire class to get on the bus or to the car line and you don’t have an assistant…” , “What to do when child throws a desk”, “What do to when you receive your first nasty parent note…”
Now that it is my first year teaching Higher Education, I am going to try to take the time to write it down. I don’t want to forget what it was like doing something new. I don’t want to forget the questions in my mind on the first day and the wondering if there might be tissues in the classroom (there are not….).
I am a part-time Teaching Associate, also known as an Adjunct Professor. I am teaching one senior level course and I absolutely love it. However, for this Early Childhood teacher, I do miss having my own classroom. I miss the adorable preschoolers and the fresh perspective they have on all things. I miss my school family where I was teaching. I miss having my structure and routines that are centered around my physical room. But, at the same time, I love what I am doing. I am thankful for this opportunity and the many ways it is growing me. Since I don’t have a physical classroom, I find myself pulling my Mary Poppins cart of wonders around campus. I find the awkward elevator ride amusing when others look into my cart and see a stuffed animal and a miniature trash can and then their eyes slowly connect with mine and are filled with confusion. I allow them to stay in that confusion as I exit the elevator, I simply wish them a great day and have to chuckle to myself! What they don’t know is that it those are engaging tools for taking attendance and learning names! My own children questioned my judgement when they saw the stuffed animal on the first day of school! For me, it has been important not to just tell my students what to do in their Early Childhood classrooms but to show them. So, I take attendance using a Name Muncher and have taught them all of the skills that are mastered by using this tiny little trash can with google eyes that “eats” the names. I’ve also told them that feeding the name muncher will count as a quiz grade to encourage their participation. And, I sing the silly Willoughby Willoughby song and Who Took the Cookie From the Cookie Jar off key and out of tune to learn names because I want them to have that strategy when they are trying to learn their class names. I’ll admit, I feel silly, at times. They don’t look at me as though I’m magical like my preschoolers did. However, I imagine when they are standing in front of their young students someday, they will appreciate a few engaging tricks that their somewhat strange college professor taught them.
I find it amusing that my particular class is not housed in the College of Education therefore many find my cart particularly interesting in the melting pot of classes that are housed in the building where I teach.
I am inspired and energized by the students. It is such a blessing to play a small role in their future because of this class. They are one semester away from student teaching. This particular class is on relations. Home, school, parent, community relations and how it is connected to the classroom teacher. It is one of the most important aspects of the children we teach. We can’t understand our students if we don’t understand where they are coming from!
I truly believe that you cannot teach the mind, until you touch the heart. I’ve taken a bit of a risk and decided to use 3 entire class sessions to do what I call Heart’s Story. Each student is given 10 minutes to share the heart of who they are through an oral presentation, a poster and 5 items that help us learn more about who they are! After all, whether conscious or not, we teach who we are! If I’m not modeling how to build community in a relationship class, than I’ve missed the mark. I do not know if the students recognize the value of this assignment just yet. However, I do know that when the course starts to become difficult and the textbook chapters become long, we’ve built a foundation on relationships with each other.
I went first. I told my story. I was real and raw and felt a little exposed after my Heart’s Story. But, a beautiful thing happened. It allowed others to be real, raw and share vulnerable stories. Several wrote on their response cards connections to pieces of my story that they could relate to. A few even shared that it made them feel more comfortable coming to me knowing the information that I shared with them. My hope for them as future educators is to want to understand their students, where they come from and why the behave or don’t behave in a certain way. My hope in all of this is that they realize that if they don’t have a relationship with their students, its going to be incredibly difficult to achieve much else because at the heart of who the students are is that they want to belong, they want to be known and they want to be loved.
It is an incredible blessing to show up and pour out each day. As an adjunct, I don’t know from semester to semester what my future will hold at the University, so I show up and teach like it might be the only chance I have each and every day.
I’m taking advantage of every training, faculty/staff development and meeting because I just want to soak it all in and pour it all out. So, don’t mind me and my cart filled with wonders….I realize that this is a precious opportunity. I’m going to take the teachable moments that risk seeming weird, love the students and hope that my passion for Education is contagious.