by Peter Rice
February 10, 2011
Welcome back to a brand new semester. New professors, old friends, same college; you have done this before, but now many of you are beginning, or continuing, your life as a student teacher. Are you excited, nervous, or just unsure? It is sort of like standing in line for your first roller coaster ride. You spot the ride from a distance, race over to the line and wait for your turn. In the beginning, you are excited because this is the best ride in the world, or at least that is what you have been told. Then you notice that the line has grown long behind you, and suddenly you feel trapped; no way out. Second thoughts fill your head with fear and doubt, but you try your best to suppress them. By the time you reach the end of the line, you just do not feel as sure as you did getting on, but it is too late now. You are already sitting down, being strapped in, and jolted forward. The only thing that keeps you calm is the thought that this is what you wanted. Will you enjoy the ride? You can only answer this question at the end when everything stops.
Teaching was the only profession that I ever considered, because I could never imagine myself doing anything else. Whenever I saw someone struggling in a subject that I understood, I always felt compelled to help them. I teach because I love to learn, and in the end, I believe that having something to share is a gift we all receive.
Despite all this, I was still haunted by a single question before I started my first semester of student teaching: Are you ready? I know a lot about history, but I cannot say that I know everything. I knew that I wanted to teach, but I was not quite sure how I was going to go about doing it. I was worried that I would fail myself, and in doing so, would fail all the students I wanted to help. Yet, when the time came to stand before those students with a lesson plan that I had carefully designed, I knew that the experience of time had already begun ticking its way towards fulfilling my dreams.
I can only speak for myself, but having experienced the first phase of student teaching, I feel that I have learned a thing or two. The demands that will be placed on you during your placement may be considerable at times. Making the most of your time and effort is critical, but if your best efforts still leave you feeling stressed out, cutting extracurricular activities may be necessary. Creating a routine and schedule that takes short and long term assignments into consideration is essential to staying above the many demands that will soon encompass your life.
Beyond this, there are other requirements that student teachers must fulfill. It is a sad fact of life, but we are sometimes superficially judged on our appearances. Behaving and dressing professionally will go a long way, especially if you want a job someday. However, just looking like a teacher will not make you one. After taking a moment to become acquainted with your assigned school, getting to know its various professionals (administrators, social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, speech and language pathologists, secretaries, custodians, et al.) and policies, it is time to develop a working relationship with your cooperating teacher.
Maintaining clear lines of communication between your cooperating teacher and yourself is important. Remember to be direct, positive, and diplomatic about all of your concerns and inquiries. The fact is you are a guest in your cooperating teacher’s classroom, and they are ultimately responsible for the students under their wing. Therefore, when designing activities or lesson plans, consult your cooperating teacher and welcome their constructive feedback before implementing your ideas. As eager as you may be about jumping into things, easing yourself into the life of a teacher begins with observations. Regardless of how much experience you have standing before a class, observing your cooperating teacher will offer a wealth of information about time and classroom management, lesson flow, and other obstacles that teachers overcome each and every day. After a few days of observations and keeping your anecdotal records in mind, you should be ready to start teaching. At first, you may prefer to engage in collaborative teaching with your cooperating teacher until you feel comfortable enough to take over more of the classroom responsibilities. Before you know it, with all your lesson plans, graded assignments, and growing experience, you will be a teacher.
As a student teacher, you are only limited by your imagination. Asking questions and keeping an open mind is always valuable, but utilizing the advice and experience of your professors is indispensible. You may find that the words of wisdom you receive – whether they are from your cooperating teacher, professors, or peers – conflict with what you have already learned or believe about education. Keeping this in mind, and remaining diplomatic, allows for valuable learning experiences to flourish because there is no one right way to solve a problem. However, if you come across a colleague who is worn-out, disillusioned, and indifferent to the educational profession, remaining positive against their onslaughts of hopelessness and frustration will serve you well.
This is just a sliver of the student teaching experience. What you encounter on your journey will certainly differ. And though you may come upon times of trouble, remembering why you chose to become a teacher will guide you through. Now all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Are you ready?
by James Wagner
February 10, 2011
One quick turn,
a slight slip of the hand, smack and tumble.
My oversized gold band that I still,
still wear, collides.
The 16 ounce, fire engine red cup
with the barn logo on the side—
sun shinning over, with the rooster on top
almost cock-a-doodle-dooing, tips over.
The white cap firmly on top
spinning once, twice, thrice,
over and over as it all slows to a crawl.
Mimicking the rooster,
I let out a loud yelp.
The spinning object,
force, acceleration and all meets the floor.
Half regular, half decaf,
two and a half sugars, one sweet and low,
with half and half, one drop of French vanilla creamer
stirred six times—splatters in a single second.
No amount of crying, convincing or counseling,
will bring the millions of drops of that splattered coffee,
back together again.
by Caroline Galeotafiore
February 7, 2011
I hold inside of me an old soul that is prudently paired
With an infantile and youthful, yearning mind,
Along with an inexorably austere spirit,
And a tender smile that’s unmistakably, keenly kind.
I possess astonishing audacity,
More than you’d wish to imagine,
Yet my gentle, harmless hands
Know nothing of exaction.
I’ve got the giggle of a girl
Who’s hardly a mere fraction of my age
And the mentality of a matriarch
Who’s paid more dues than the necessary wage.
My bright, innocent eyes create dissonance with my soul,
Which exists as nothing more than a tarnished scrap of gold,
And with all the things they’ve witnessed, together and alone,
Comes worthy, wondrous wisdom that they unhand and hold.
It’s obvious by now that I’m a walking paradox,
A notion that is fairly far from being anything arcane,
But I ask the question, “What else is to be expected
In this puzzling place we live in where insanity is sane?”
Consider me a microcosm
Of this winding, whirling, wild world
Where nothing really makes sense,
Even when the answers are unfurled.
There’s so much love and hope for peace,
Yet there are still so many wars.
It’s as if we constantly are trying
To challenge already settled scores.
There is an endless game of tug-o-war,
And it is facetiously non-ceasing
Because we’re looking for the rhyme
When we don’t even have the reason.
We all are incontrovertibly contradictions
In an even more contradicting, contrasting world,
So right and wrong will prolong to battle lifelong in
the same silently sung song
In an inescapable, unstoppable, ever complex swirl.
Just this once, be stable and true,
And fight steadfastly for one simple case.
Let your actions reflect your convictions,
As a mirror reflects your formerly faithless face.
by James Browning
February 6, 2011
The landscape is most sepulchral, as the fetid earth rots beneath the murky and starless firmament. It is a battle scene, filled with the remains of things that once lived—things unappreciated, unwanted, and too weak to survive. As the forgotten have no legacy, they cannot sustain themselves; so they perish. In the center of this barren land is but a single alabaster flower, uncharacteristically beautiful in the encircling darkness. It stands alone, the vision of a preserved hope. But the wind cackles across this valley of death, caresses the blossom, and it too blackens, crumbles to dust, and dies.
The folly of man is forever recorded
Within the labyrinth of time.
In dreary succession, man carelessly flies
Until the tower does chime.
In the vast and expansive sky, the sun hung heavily above the earth, reddening with envy as it glared upon the land and its enemies below. In the distance, a nomad ambled down the dirt road before her, stopping in front of a dreary pond. Pensively, she dropped a stone into the waters and listened for a mumbled reply before she continued.
The stagnant summer haze drifted overhead, swallowing the sun as it moved. The woman lowered her sore body onto a vacant bench beside the road. She was a pale lady with dainty hands and a young, oval visage. Her light, blond hair was a humble compliment to her pale complexion; and her glassy, blue eyes had a deliberate and steady gaze.
A raven carriage clamored up the path, pulled by two ebony horses. The driver, upon noticing the wanderer, stopped before her. He was intrigued by her reticent beauty, almost as a little boy is transfixed by forbidden candy. “Good afternoon, Miss,” presented the man. The woman did not reply. “Why have we stopped, Thomas?” barked the plump female inside. She stepped out of the carriage to view the mistress on the bench. “Who are you?” demanded the fat lady. Receiving no reply, she became furious. “Well, Miss, where are your manners? Don’t you respect your superiors? Do you even know who I am?”
Upon hearing this, the nomad noticed that this woman was very wealthy. She wore a gaudy gown, blinding with the shimmer of massive diamonds. Her hair was a forest of brown loops, pinned painfully to her large head. Mostly everything about the lady glittered, except for her dour and oppressive eyes.
“Ah, what a pity. A stupid, ignorant little girl you are,” continued the rich lady. “Well, it’s your own fault you have nothing. If you weren’t lazy, you could get somewhere.”
“What do you do with your time?” asked the wanderer.
“Oh, she speaks, Thomas! I, my dear girl, enjoy myself.”
“As I thought.”
“Well! You are a presumptuous girl, aren’t you? Thomas, take me away at once!” The rich lady sat in the carriage, and she was carried off. For an instant, the nomad almost thought the dark horses had winked at her, but they were gone a moment later.
The carriage rode off into the distance, carrying the bitter woman who was confident in her control over this world. The black horses moved forth into the forest of maple trees beyond the village, where the rich woman resided.
Man’s withering ivy clings to the great torch.
Waning, the flame starts to sway.
The great tawny owl in cypress trees perched
In darkness does wait for his prey.
Walking deliberately, the nomad approached a barn. It seeming adequate for her needs, she returned outside and searched for the farmer. Past a lake, she spotted a cottage in the distance with a meager light in the window. Steadily, she approached and knocked on the door.
“May I help you, Miss?” the farmer greeted her.
“I seek shelter. May I stay in your barn?”
“Of course,” assured the farmer. “I don’t have much food to offer you, though. I have lost my entire crop to an early frost. It seems there are some things man cannot control. I am poor, now, and very hungry. Most everyone here depended on my crop; they too will go hungry.” The man offered a small head of lettuce; he was very generous.
Outside, by the lake, the nomad watched the sun set. She had always imagined that if you were very quiet, you could hear the sun steam as it hit the transparent waters of the Earth while it sank below the horizon. The last golden rays faded into twilight, and a murky mist emerged from Earth’s bosom.
As the woman lay in the barn, sounds of the silent night drifted along the air until they echoed into nothingness. Perhaps they were the distant moans of the people in the village with the pains of starvation. To her, they seemed to be the vacant murmurs of the poor ones—the sounds of the humans as Charon ferried them over the river Styx. Some were left behind on the bank, as they did not have the small coin that Charon charged for the passage across.
The idle endure death, forever evading;
And suffers quite deeply, the knave.
But dance with time thoughtfully, peace will come find you;
he’ll hang a wreath on your grave.
Most of the people in the village had moved away; the obstinate ones starved—there was nothing left of the farm.
The wanderer moved into the farmer’s cottage after he died. Though she was the only one in the village, she was not despondent. She knew foraging for food could keep her alive. She would simply move on if she could not find anything to eat.
On a chilly morning, she took a walk by the lake. Exploring the banks, she discovered a broken column near a grove of trees. Upon a further search, she found that the grove contained many yew trees that, surprisingly, had berries on them. That must do, she thought. Reaching up for the branches, she plucked the blood-red berries which oozed and dripped from the tree. They tasted sweet, and she felt certain that there were plenty of them to survive for some time. She was originally unaware that the berries contained seeds, but she did not mind them after they were discovered.
The woman lay down to rest near the broken column from which an inverted torch hung. Beside the column, the woman drifted off into silence. As she peacefully rested, the poison from the seeds seeped into her blood.
Beneath the cypress trees, the woman was laid to rest. Her name was engraved delicately and deliberately into her headstone. Lily. Quite a pleasant name, it was, revealing the gentle nature of the pale woman residing there. Beneath her name was a small inscription and nothing more:
If the sun’s light faded into gloomy fog,
The people would grieve and suffer more
Than if they never saw its countenance.