Saturday, May 16, 2015

I am a Teacher.

Man, I had a pretty trying day. I am taking a class this summer that meets on four Saturdays from 9-6 and two Fridays from 5-9 in Charleston, which is about an hour from where I live.

And you know what, that's cool. I had reconciled myself to that fact. It's only a few times, and it's better to take it in summer when I'm not teaching school instead of fall when I'd be teaching Monday through Friday. So I drove to Charleston today with my snacks, my water, my lunch packed, a notebook, and my required three-ring binder. Ready to learn because I love new teaching ideas.

Overall my teacher seems nice and she is definitely interested in the subject matter, so that's great. But the problem lies in something that requires a smidge of backstory.

See, my undergraduate degree is in political science, and I also have a master's degree in journalism. Because my undergrad is political science, upon completion of my Master's in Teaching program, I will be certified to teach social studies for grades five through adult. I already passed the Praxis II exam in that content area. However, I currently teach Language Arts at Fatima. I teach all three middle school grades (6, 7, and 8), and I teach grammar, writing, literature, spelling, and vocabulary. In our diocese, a person can teach as long as there is a plan in place for teaching certification. So everything I've studied and taught over the past year is straight language arts.

I had an amazing teacher last semester (shout out Kelly Bonar!) who was like -- Anna, look, I get that social studies is technically your area, but you teach language arts, so please feel free to do all applicable work in this class for language arts. Do things you can use.

Oh, also, I should add now that I have also taken, and passed (with flying colors, I might humbly add) the language arts Praxis II exam.

During a break today, I mentioned to my teacher that where Marshall is concerned my content area is social studies, but I teach (and plan to continue to teach) language arts, so would it be all right if I did my work in this class focused on language arts? (Thinking that it would be great to plan actual lessons with actual students in mind and actually teach them.) Um, she laughed at me. Like actually laughed. And I'm still not sure why. And also, I never got an answer other than that, so I assume the answer is no? After she laughed at me, she asked me how I plan to do my student teaching, so I explained what my principal had worked out with Marshall concerning my placement for the fall. (In a nutshell, I'll be going into a public school to teach social studies one day a week while keeping up all my language arts/religion duties at Fatima.) She said that might work, but that there's no way I can teach at Fatima and also student teach in the spring (because you need way more hours). Thanks? I mean, I know it's the state's fault -- not Marshall's -- that I, in essence, have to leave my teaching job to go student teach so I can get a teaching job, but could I get some support? I mean, we have tons of standards we have to meet for our academics PLUS we have to integrate Catholic Identity into everything, so we actually have MORE standards.

And all of that was fine until this one incident. During a break, the girl next to me and I were chatting, and she was asking me about teaching and going to school. She said, "So do you have a conditional license from the state or something?" Before I could explain the diocesan rules, my teacher butts in and says, and I quote, "SHE'S NOT CERTIFIED."

Okay. Thanks.

In this past year, I have been going to school full time while also being a first-year teacher. I have put in more hours that I can remember since I officially accepted this job July 11 doing research, planning lessons, reading about best teaching practices, reading books, scouring the internet, cleaning, organizing, scrubbing, etc. I'm not complaining because most of it was a lot of fun, and I have loved my teaching job. But I say all that to say, I might not have that much formal education in teaching, but I am a teacher.

I AM A TEACHER.

You want to know how I know that? I have actual students. My students -- who I write lesson plans for, whose work I grade, whose learning I encourage, whose well being I lose sleep over, who I am always there for -- are ACTUAL people. They are not hypothetical students I might have "one day" when I graduate the MAT program. They are Magdalena and Olivia. Tommy and Gabe. Katy and Zoe. Some of them are amazing creative writers. Some love to talk. Some are class clowns. Some always forget to raise their hands. They are oldest children, youngest children, middle children. They come from families with 10 kids and they are only children. They have parents with limitless money, and some have parents who work multiple jobs. Some are C students who could be A students, while others get Cs we celebrate. In fact, last week, I wrote on a student's spelling test, "It makes my week when you get a 100% on a spelling test!" AND IT DOES. And if that's not being a teacher, then I honestly am not sure what is.

One of the things I said to my mom/dad/Erin/Melissa/anyone who would listen back in July before I formally accepted this job is that I was afraid that the other teachers at my school would think that I thought that I could do what they do, no problem, pretty much poo-poohing their years of education and experience. Which is not how I feel AT ALL. But you know what? Not a one of them has ever said or even insinuated they felt that way. Not once. In fact, the most veteran teacher at our school, who has won many awards and who is one of my favorite teachers of all time said to me (when I brought this up to her last summer) -- Anna, the only thing having a teaching degree means is that you have a teaching degree.

Wow. I have carried that with me this whole school year.

A parent who has a kid in my class this year and will have two next year, when I mentioned the lack of degree to her said -- Anna, you have to stop getting hung up on that degree.

Wow. I have carried that with me too.

Am I the best teacher at my school? NOT BY A LONG SHOT. I have so much to learn, which is why I go to my classes with an open mind and heart to be an even better teacher. But have I given this year literally every. single. drop. of everything I had? Most definitely. And every time my 100% was not enough (which was every day), the Lord came in and gave me exactly what I needed. And I believe He has done that because He called me to something, I said yes to Him even though I was scared terrified, He sees that I give it all I have, and He honors that.

Obviously I place a high value on education. I'm a teacher. Haha. And I don't say all this for pity or compliments or anything. I say it because I need your prayers. And your support. And, if you are ever in a position where you can lift someone up or make them feel inferior, please pick lift someone up.

That's what a teacher would do.

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