At this point last year, I was relaxing in my hometown of Franklin, Virginia, sitting around a firepit with close friends, and reminiscing about the 3 1/2 years of college that were behind me – the undergraduate career that had just finished. I was not nervous about the future. I was not apprehensive of finding a job. Because I had another year and a half. A year and a half left of graduate school – a year and a half where I would be taught and learn to teach, a year and a half where I would learn so much about how to help children learn. And here it is. I’m sitting here again, in my hometown, and although I’ve relaxed a little bit and been able to sit by the firepit in the backyard, I am apprehensive this time. I am nervous about my future. And that’s because this time I don’t have that cushion of a year and a half. I only have five months.
Classes start back for us at the School of Education on January 16th, along with the rest of the William & Mary community (minus the Law School, who starts back a week prior). And then, Commencement is the 12th of May. That leaves those five months for me to accomplish so much – to complete the intensive first five-week course load that my program goes through, to complete 10 weeks of student teaching, to receive my Master’s of Arts in Education, to receive my certification from the Virginia Department of Education to be a teacher, and so much more. That date of May 12th feels so far away, so infinite, but the reality is that I know it’s coming. I just registered today for my last standardized test left – the Reading for Virginia Educators test. That means, come February 2nd, 2013 – I’ll be done with test taking (for now). Thankfully, that will fall before I am thrown into the craziness of student teaching. Thrown into those 10 weeks of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. working life where I am with my students every minute of the day (minus resource time and lunch!). It seems hard to believe that this is all so very real.
Earlier in the semester, when I was conducting my very first guided reading lesson, I was overwhelmed with nerves and thoughts of how horrible it would be. In all actuality, it went incredibly well. I surprised myself, with thinking on my feet, with engaging my students, and with my classroom management skills and differentiation strategies. As I taught my final lesson on Friday the 14th in a third grade classroom at the elementary school at which I work, it was a different story. I was comfortable, didn’t need to reference my lesson plan every two seconds, and so much more at ease. However, before the lesson started, the teacher I was working with pulled up the document camera for me (to which the news was connected). We glanced in horror at the news of the Sandy Hook shooting as the document camera booted up. I couldn’t let the news phase me – I had a lesson to teach to 19 beautiful and energetic 8 and 9-year-olds. They were counting on me, much like many students across the nation count on their teachers every single day.
Although I didn’t have time to let the news phase me then, I got in my car to return home to grab a coffee, and watched President Obama’s speech. I listened to a report on NPR on my way back to a review session for my math exam the following Monday. Tears streamed down my face, thoughts ran through my head, and all I wanted to do was head back to school and hug my second graders a little tighter. Often times, when a horrific event happens in the world, it draws others back from entering the field associated with the event. This event has made my passion for teaching so much stronger, my love for my students so much more precious, and the respect that I have for other educators so much greater.
I have one semester left – one more semester, one more standardized test, and one more round of finals (thank GOODNESS). But I also only have one more semester left with my students, and that leaves me with such bittersweet feelings. Bittersweet feelings knowing that I have so much ahead of me – 10 weeks of student teaching, applying for my Virginia Teaching license, lots of last-time hangouts with my favorite friends who are graduating this year, more late-night lesson planning, and soaking up the joys that William & Mary has to offer.
In the next few weeks, I know that I’ll be continuing to hug my students a little tighter, embracing my role as a student teacher a little more, and living each day and moment to the fullest, trying to remember and honor the memories of those teachers who gave their lives for their students in the Sandy Hook shooting.
Harking upon the gale and hoping that your holiday was as wonderful as mine,