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I start student teaching in one week. So I wanted to write out my jumbled thoughts as I face a new adventure. It’s scary to think that I will be a different person, a different teacher in twelve weeks. And yet, I still feel this suffocating pressure to be perfect.
Does this pressure stem from the infamous “Mustang mentality”: a high school ideology expecting a 4.0 GPA and an AP studded transcript? Perhaps. But maybe it is found in the roots of the education system, which puts teachers against one another. “Who is the most creative?” and “Whose students perform ‘better’?” are asked instead of “How do they work together as a team?” and “How do they support each other?”.
That being said, I cannot compare myself to my brilliant friends and classmates. They are forging their paths and embarking on their self-growth. Throughout the past three years, we’ve ridden the emotional roller coaster together and built a strong community. So why do I still feel lonely? As excited as I am to start this next step, I am terrified of facing it alone.
I chose to write these disorganized thoughts because I most freely express myself through writing. I feel I am more eloquent when I write rather than when I speak. When I write, I shape my words and how I see them in my head. Ideas are like puzzle pieces I put together with semicolons and conjunctions. However, when I speak, my ideas don’t always come out as I see them…I get stuck. This is true with every lesson plan I write.
In the past few years, I have spent hours writing beautiful lessons: well-crafted and structured with step-by-step instructions. Each planned second is supported by standards and theory. But when I stand in front of twenty-five little humans, I immediately toss that flawless plan out the window. If it were perfect, I would read it aloud, memorized, with every answer and behavior prepared and scheduled. However, this is never what teaching looks like; this expectation is disengaging and self-centering. So, how can I let my creativity flow from my paper into the classroom?
Whenever I start a lesson, I feel like that nine-year-old girl approaching the piano bench with so much stage fright she can hardly breathe. Her head is filled with melody and harmony until she rests her hands on the keys. Just as she starts to play, the memory escapes her –she forgets her lines. Although teaching is not a performance but a balanced engagement, I still feel the same nerves as I walk up to the whiteboard.
So as the days quickly pass, I confront my melting pot of emotions towards this big step: nervousness, doubt, anxiety, excitement, confusion, glee, and impatience. Usually, I ping pong between feeling nerves and excitement. As strong as my emotions are, I feel validated by the words of one of my mentors and professors: “If you no longer feel nervous entering a classroom, you should no longer be a teacher.” Funny how I always saw my teachers as the most confident leaders when they felt the same first-day nerves.
One question that constantly lingers in my busy, overstimulated mind is “Am I enough to have this platform?”. Am I enough to discuss issues within my career field when I have not yet worked as a teacher? I am not an expert! I doubt my career choice every day! Am I experienced enough? Am I authentic enough? Am I engaging enough? But I have to stop these intrusive thoughts with a reminder: I have not yet worked as a teacher. I’m ok with where I am, and that’s authentic enough.
Sometimes, I still need to put myself in my place. I am a twenty-one-year-old fourth-year college student who still has no idea what her life will be like after graduation. I am just entering my twenties, a decade infamous for self-questioning and famous for self-transformation. As much as I act professional and confident on the outside, I fear growing up and moving away from everything I know. Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up” echoes in my head as I face the timely post-graduation questions, “Where will you go?” and “What will you do?”. I find I want to tuck myself in and turn my night light on more than usual.
One thing that I do know is that I do not know everything, and I never will. The experience of navigating control over a classroom will attack my perfectionism: my Achilles heel. Working with human beings means that I will never be perfect at what I do. If I were perfect, I would be a mechanical, emotionless robot who does not give a thought to staying after hours every school night (like society expects of me).
The truth is, that growth is exhausting. It is a lifelong mission with no endpoint. In both my professional and personal life, there will never be a moment where I will think “I made it!”. If anything, it is healthier to embrace novelty and mistakes than avoid them. I can admit to my students that I am learning, just like them. I can tell them when I am sad or when I am having a bad day. With young children, I do not – and should not need to wear a mask.
As I stand on the edge of this bottomless cliff –eager for some sense of what is to come– I take a few drain breaths. Breathe in. . .whoosh! Breathe in. . .whoosh! I can control only what I can control. I am going to make mistakes, but I will learn through them. I will be a different person in twelve weeks, but I can’t wait to meet her.
Thank you for making it through this post. I wrote these words in a different style than I usually do. Instead of worrying about sentence and paragraph structure, I let the words just flow from my head to my keyboard. In this case, many of these words filled my head as I drove back to Duluth. I needed to stop and jot them down before they left.
Student teaching is inherently an emotionally charged experienced. I wanted to reflect on all of my feelings and thoughts with my first day being less than a week away.
Did you enjoy this style of blog post? Leave me a comment with your feedback!
Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.