Thursday, March 29, 2007


(Post-Student Teaching Perspective)

Teaching is like editing a movie. You start with tons of raw footage that will have to be edited to fit the two-hour timeframe. As a student teacher of English literature, you constantly deal with the three Ps of teaching—plan, prepare, and papers. The amount of time you spend doing these three activities will prove to be a good test of true friendship. After telling people that you’ll be working from dawn till dusk and still be broke for five months, wearing the same clothes and eating cheap food, acquaintances will start to feel sorry for you, good friends will take you out once in a while, and true friends will be delighted, or act like so, every time you gripe about your student teaching’s horrors or comedies, depending on how good of a storyteller you are.

In film editing, you lay down the visual track, first, before adding special effects. Similar to teaching, efficient teachers need to first lay down classroom rules. No matter how many times you hear this warning, nothing will make you stick to your rules until you are taught by your students. Things like late work, mounds of paper load, excessive requests to the bathroom, and constant chatting during lecture will soon begin to gnaw at your temper. And due to the present overwhelming lawsuits in the US, inexperienced teachers need to redirect their temper toward things that will lead to positive outcomes such as taking long walks or squeezing a stress ball until your hand turns blue.

A film editor is a storyteller; a certain amount of creativity is required. He or she uses a variety of techniques to tell a story. In teaching, the same material can either cause students’ eyes to droop or dance. Sometimes in order to make a dull activity dynamic is by sprinkling your classroom with pixie dust. During my student teaching, I had the privilege of working with a master teacher, Mrs. Angus, who never runs out of creative juice. We each taught a sophomore, honors English class. Upon teaching Frankenstein, I decided to put the mad scientist Victor Frankenstein on trial, and I chose the "most important" position to be-- the judge. Imagine the first time running a trial, things were just a bit chaotic. Mrs. Angus, however, decided to select a group of students to be judges, so they were forced to listen to the rest of the class who were arguing their little hearts out on a genetic engineering issue. Instead of having the teacher being responsible for so much of the process, it is a marvelous idea to let the students run the show instead of you. So I learned that pixie dust actually works in a real classroom.

The satisfaction of the editing process, after spending days or weeks in hibernation, is that you can sit back and be proud of your finished story. On a similar note, the satisfaction of teaching comes after weeks and months of solitarily motivating students to care about their education. Students are capable of achieving great things, but they often lack the motivation. I told my students that I did not get paid to student teach. My payment came in the form of watching them, through hard work, try over and again and then “Aha!” A whiner turned into a winner.

On the other hand, teaching may actually bare no similarities to film editing. Many things that go on in a classroom cannot be edited. It is just plain, raw footage. Sometimes you have raw, teenage emotions flying everywhere. Wrong words rub someone the wrong way, and feelings are hurt. Certain words coming out of an adolescent mouth are still unedited and inappropriate. Unlike an editor sitting behind a screen, teachers are more like actors. When the bell rings, we play the part until another bell rings, and the door is shut, and no one is left but you slumping in your chair after a long, tiring day, hoping to catch a moment of peace, only a moment to breathe.

Philosophy of Teaching (pre-student teaching)

So Johnny, Why Don’t You Sing for Us?

The bell rang: Johnny dragged his feet across the floor through the classroom door, dropped his backpack next to a seat in the back corner, and stared at an empty gray desk and then out the window. No doubt, the next hour would seem like a day. And Johnny is not alone.

Education has become dead to many. Especially in the “left behind” group, students read but fail to see words come alive. They write as if they were blind. They recite poetry but cannot see the imagery because, for a while now, their minds have been kept in a damp, dark cell. They are forced to squeeze words into five-chunk paragraphs, and one sentence out of line is crossed off with a blood-colored pen. No one has ever told Johnny about his freedom to explore words: up-and-down, inside-and-out. No one has let him in on a secret of education. No one has ever whispered into his ears that to become a student of literature, he has to dance like no one’s watching, to sing at the top of his lungs, and once in a while, to relish food to his heart’s content. He has to look at the world in between his legs, to see a twinkle in the eyes of a homeless child. In the moment of silence, he has to listen to the wind blowing, the birds chirping, and his heart beating. Through pain and suffering, he has to reach out and touch others who are also crying. He has to practice closing his eyes and smell the flowers, and feel the pedals, and touch the dirt, and listen to the leaves kissing the ground. For once in his life, when it rains, he has to open wide his mouth and let the raindrops trickle down his throat to refresh his soul. Johnny should pretend to be someone, not out of shame for who he is, but out of the curiosity and the desire to walk around in someone else’s shoes. Had anyone told him these secrets, he would not walk into class, but waltz, march, skip, and even sprint. Maybe his heart, mind, and soul would start to dance across a white page. He sees, therefore, he writes. He feels and shares his feelings with the world.

It is my mission as a teacher to lead students like Johnny out of the prison of the mind to swim in the ocean, to run in the forest, and to breathe clean, fresh air. It is my goal to show him ways to unlock the secrets of texts and to unveil its power. I see myself as an artist, and my students’ minds as an object of my art. While not every work of art will be a masterpiece, each one is still a work of art. I have come to find joy in discovering talents in others, and it is my dream to see my students succeed further in life. My heart beams with joy when seeing Johnny—after much sweat and tears—smiles and says, “Miss C, I got it!” Then he shouts across the room to his buddy, “ List'n dog, she says I write well...ya know dat!” Things like that money can’t buy, although it can certainly help.