Montana

Montana

It’s funny how quickly life can change in a week. For the past several months I have been reading, writing, interviewing and googling every possible concept on Superheroes and how to run a classroom with high-schoolers; and in a one-week span that continuous editing, learning and planning process of my life has been finished. A week ago today I was in the middle of lecturing my students on anti-heroes outside in the amphitheatre beside Southam Hall, asking them questions (which honestly felt like prying out teeth) and figuring out what I was going to do that afternoon to make everything we needed to accomplish as a class was completed.

My night would be filled with creating a new jeopardy game (I used these as a way for the class to interact with each other, as well as show me they were paying attention from the day before and to see what they knew about the lesson for that day) and tweaking the lecture notes I had created to suit what I believe the class could or could not handle. In comparison my day today has been less exciting: I ran some errands and now sip an iced latte at Starbucks while writing this post.

In just one week I got a taste of what it was like to run my own high school classroom, keep to a curriculum, decipher learning methods and speeds and I got to experience how to interact with this age group as an instructor. During that time my life changed for the better, and while I sit in a Starbucks looking like one of the many other university students that sit in here typing away on their laptops, a decent part of me misses that boisterous group of thirteen/fourteen year olds.

This past week was filled with many moments: some good, some bad and honestly quite a few where I highly considered pulling my hair out due to sheer frustration. Yet just when I thought all hope had been lost — that the students either did not enjoy, did not care for the material I was teaching, or that they were bored out of their skull — one of them would show enthusiasm, or the quietest ones who sat and rarely participated said a brilliant question/comment which then made all the moments of anxiety and nervousness worth it. The amount of work involved on a daily basis from prep to nightly tweaking of the next lesson, was admittedly more than I thought it would be (and I had been warned about this by several teachers). For those of you who are considering becoming an Instructor for the Enrichment-Mini-Course I highly recommend it! The experience, while at times frustrating, was so rewarding and enjoyable.

Part of what made my experience enjoyable was that the goals I had set for my class educationally and socially were both achieved. As I mentioned in my last post, my educational goal was to be able to make connections they otherwise would never have considered making. I wanted them to understand and practice looking for parallels beyond the scope of literature and into the world around them. On Friday when I could view their posters I was more than satisfied with their ability to make these connections. The social goal that I had created for my class was to circumvent any social awkwardness or cliques that high schoolers are so prone to creating.

I wanted my class to be a junior version of a fantastic and dynamic third or fourth-year seminar, the kind where the group gets along easily and discussions, while sometimes veering off their intended paths, were educational, enjoyable and thought-provoking. My problem was that I was dealing with high-school, an age where cliques and awkwardness went hand-in-hand and were probably all these kids had ever known. How I acted towards them on the first day, how they interacted with me and each other would set the precedent for the entire week and I could not go about this passively.

So in order to circumvent any awkwardness or cliques I did an ice-breaker, then a game immediately afterwards. The game was meant to be a fun factor, but the real challenge was that they had to get into groups of four with people they did not know. By putting them into groups during a game, I was hoping that their competitiveness to show off their knowledge could be used as a sort of bonding moment. At the time I know the class was a tad
uncomfortable, but I addressed it and assured them it was worth it. A few short days later on that Friday, I knew they were happy I had made that decision — and so was I — as the class was doing everything in their power to spend their last few hours together rather than intermingling with other kids in the program during an exhibition we had that afternoon.

One of the other instructors, whose class was also demonstrating their work from that week in the Tory atrium, came over to introduce herself, take a look at their posters and then ask if any of my students wanted to go take a look at her class’ work. I assured her that I would mention it to them, which I did, but none of them were incredibly eager to leave the circle of games and talking that they had created. While on the one hand it looks like almost ‘bad teaching’ to not have my students intermingle with other classes, I was more excited than anything at their reaction — they wanted to be together, they enjoyed the class, and they had made new friends. All of these things were my main goals for that entire week — and every single one of them had been reached. What more could any instructor ask for? Even in comparison to the work involved seeing them all lingering and not entirely ready to leave on Friday afternoon warmed my heart; the posters they had created, the questions they asked that entire week and the discussions that came from my lectures even more so.

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