An Eye Opening Experience

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"Did you like have a seizure when you were writing those posters?"

-- High School English Student, directed towards me about five seconds after I walked into class

           As long as I know my information thoroughly, I’m usually not nervous before a formal presentation. Even in front of my peers, who I have been told it is hardest to present a lesson to, I never have felt very uncomfortable. This past history is what caused me to be surprised at the small butterflies I felt before entering the tenth grade high school English class Greta and I were about to teach. It was this small, unusual nervousness that made me realize this project was going to do more than help me complete part of this class: it was going to provide me with an eye opening experience that was going to help me to decide if a career as a teacher is what I definitely want to do with my life. As someone who has always been on the fence about my decision to become a teacher, I became even more nervous when I began wondering which way this experience may push me.

            Greta and I spent a lot of time preparing our lesson plan. Starting a few weeks before spring break, we met once or twice during a week in order to make sure our lesson plan would carry through as smoothly as possible. We worked together on deciding what specific information we should teach, what activities we would include, and how we would divide the presentation up between us. We also practiced our lesson several times, which again opened our eyes up to some situations which we had not planned for on paper (such as where we should be positioned in the room, how it was easier for one person to cover several steps of the lesson at once rather than to split the presentation up too much, etc). It also helped to give us a sense of how much flexibility we would have time wise in the class since the class period we were working with was only thirty nine minutes.

            Along with the preparation of what we were going to say and do during our presentation, Greta and I spent a lot of time into making the props for the activities we were going to do. This aspect of the project helped me to realize how much planning, time, and money I will eventually have to put into planning my future lessons, especially during my first few years of teaching. It made Greta and I really look at the resources we had at hand first and to become creative when it came to selecting items such as prizes (Tinkerbell wands were a must).

Although I was immediately torn apart by one student at the very beginning of class for my “seizure-like” handwriting on the posters, I really enjoyed the overall experience. The students were very bright and were great about participating, which I had been desperately hoping for. However, thus plus came with a slight side effect: being bright coupled with the willingness to participate led them to be a very talkative and excitable group. I learned within the first few minutes how quick I would have to be verbally to not only attempt to keep control over the classroom, but to try to at least attempt keep up with them. I was thankful it was a co-teaching cooperation because it definitely took the strength of two college brains to keep up with fifteen high school minds.

            The lesson, thankfully, went very smoothly thanks to the several trial runs Greta and I had practiced. Also, in general Greta and I were able to easily feed off each other during the lesson, especially when unexpected questions or situations came up. Had we not been able to work so cooperatively, I think this lesson would have had some major problems. Since the class had a very quick pace because of the amount of information we were trying to cover and the talkative atmosphere of the class in general, it would not have gone over so well had Greta and I stood there waiting for the other to take the lead. We each knew what we needed to do to keep the class moving in the right direction and it made it all work out very well.

            I learned that one major point I need to work on when it comes to teaching is the volume of my voice and my classroom presence. I noted, along with Mrs. Herman-Smith who included it in her evaluation, how confident Greta was in delivering the information and how her voice carried well throughout the class. I, on the other hand, had a much quieter voice that probably didn’t carry fully to the back of the room. This is something I hope to continue to work on with every presentation I will have in the future.

            Despite all the work and time this project required for its completion I feel like I received a lot from the experience. I learned how much work goes into creating a solid lesson plan and how much practice I will need till I become comfortable with my own teaching style. I also learned, with the help of Greta, how useful it is to learn from other’s strength’s to improve upon my weaker areas, such as projecting my voice and being more confident in front of the class.

            Even though I enjoyed my experience, I can’t say that I feel any better about the decision I have made to go into education. The experience failed to push me one way or another. It instead only seemed to make the fence I have found myself on become even higher from the ground.

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