Monday, 27 August 2012

This Can't be Mine

Approximately a week ago, I crossed the threshold of what will be my first classroom.  The bus had picked us up at 8:00 to head to the school and I'd been up since about 4:30.  I'd been awake and asleep all night - not due to any specific thoughts; but, the excitement of the whole novel situation kept my level of energy at 11.  I would never walk into my first classroom again so this one would be special.  Despite my early wake-up, it took me three tries to exit my apartment.  Yup, I was in enough of a hurry to get there that I kept forgetting something that I'd figured I would need.

Sadly, our view was obscured by apartment buildings
When I got on the bus, there were no tired eyes.  The level of energy wasn't at a fever pitch, but there was a subtle feeling of excitement and anticipation.  About the only thing that deflected our level of new classroom enthusiasm was our first view of the Great Pyramids as we drove on by.  It was finally happening - that perfect blend of math, science and ancient history all rolled into one teaching contract.  Although I had repeated some version of that phrase often enough to be a mantra, it still held the same level of emotion as when I first uttered it.

Sitting through the first part of the staff orientation was agony.  I'm filling out forms and discussing important issues when I could be seeing my class.  Finally the tour started and we wandered by.  My name wasn't yet outside of the room, but I knew from the description that it was to be mine.  To avoid seeming excessively anxious (in an attempt to maintain a thin veneer of moderate calm), I didn't stop to peer into the windows and just gave my corner a cursory glance.  Finally, the tour was done, the keys were handed out, I wandered back up to the 4th floor, unlocked my door ... and almost cried.

You talk about ideal tables - I don't even have a desk
I spent the first 15 minutes walking through the room in a daze.  After that, the "I don't have"s and "I can't find"s kicked in.  Within an hour, I got to the point where I seriously wondered what I had gotten myself into.  This couldn't be my room.   Although I didn't have a firm vision of what "my classroom" would be, there was some subconscious vision akin to Plato's universal ideal in my mind.  After all, I'd completed three vastly different practica and each of those associate teachers had a space that was theirs and it was great.  I was facing a classroom that didn't even have a whiteboard that I could use effectively ... let along a projector, laptop and dare I say, smartboard.  Direct instruction always has a place in teaching, and I didn't see how I could possibly deliver a lesson in my room.

Well, I've taken the long way to get to this week's question.  What do I wish that they'd told me during my pre-service teaching program?  I'm sure that this will change.  Sometime soon, I'll probably return to some of my previous gripes (lack of classroom management training, lack of practical / real-world education skills, insufficient focus on fast and effective organizational tools).  But for now, I wish that they'd advised us that no first classroom will live up to our expectations so we will have to adapt our teaching style to suit our surroundings.  We've seen classrooms that have taken our associate teachers years to develop and it's rare that we'll walk into a class that will have that same feel.  We haven't had those years to acquire furnishings that fit our visions ... nor have we had the years of purchase requests necessary to acquire those items that will allow us to teach in the manner we would prefer.  And, if I continue to focus on what's wrong and not on what I can do, I'll never feel at home in my class.

Sometime towards the end of last week, the switch flipped in my mind.  I haven't wrapped a towel around my head and started pretending that all is well, but I've moved away from impossibilities and started to see potential.  Teachers' college indirectly taught us to be adaptable, so I'll find a way to make it work.  Also, I remembered that I would be one of the select 4-6 people actually teaching this year out of a class of 40.  I have a feeling that most of the other 34 would be thrilled to be in my position.