Yesterday was one of those days when, as a mom, I was on edge with concern all day. The story has a happy ending, and here it is from the beginning:
Our Middle is in her senior year of college, majoring in secondary education and English. She’s living at home while at university. This semester she’s “observing” in an inner city high school classroom, and next semester she’ll student teach in the same classroom. Which means she’s working with the same teacher for the entire year.
“Observing” is rather a misnomer for what she does this semester. She’s actually more of an assistant teacher. She grades papers, helps out in class, and just yesterday she started teaching one day each week, using the regular teacher’s lesson plans.
That’s where things got sticky.
Our daughter is extremely intelligent, capable and self-confident. She knows English and writing inside out – a research paper she wrote in the spring is being published this fall. She knows kids, and she knows how to connect with them. She has a signficant amount of teaching experience in volunteer settings, and knows how to manage a classroom. I’ve seen her in action, and she blows me away. And besides possessing all the best skills, she’s got intense compassion for her students and a new teacher’s energy and enthusiasm. In short, she’s probably the best teaching candidate her university has ever seen (yes, I’m biased, but I’m not exaggerating!).
And her cooperating teacher seems to be having a difficult time with her. Little digs all the time, obviously intended to belittle. Offhand comments that seem innocuous on the surface, but which have layers of issues underneath. The situation has bothered our daughter so much she talks it over with me in the evenings, trying to sort through her feelings and make sense of it all. It’s apparent to me that this woman is not thrilled with having someone like our daughter come in and be successful on “her territory.” Certainly there has been no overt sabotage, but she’s not making it easy.
Yesterday Middle was to teach all day long. The lesson was to include a video chosen by the classrom teacher, which would lead to a discussion of themes and ideas (and then some writing) around the concept of bullying. The video chosen was from a series, and in this episode an actor played a student with autism. He’s bullied in public, and another actor stands up for him. Then they reveal that it was acting, and talk through the situation. Probably a decent learning tool. Except…
Middle felt very uncomfortable with this video. She felt it wasn’t authentic, that it could very well be a difficult viewing experience for one particular student who actually has autism, and that it wasn’t the best way to elicit the kind of discussion that was called for in the lesson. Her instinct was to find another video to use.
She did some searching, and discovered another video she thought would serve the lesson better, which she felt she could comfortably work with. She emailed her cooperating teacher to get her permission and approval, and received back a very long message laying out all the reasons why the woman had chosen the original video and why it was better, complete with gloomy predictions of what would happen if Middle’s choice was substituted.
Our daughter went with her convictions. She had the guts to stand up for herself and say to a very intimidating woman, “I understand what you’re saying, but I’m looking at this as a learning opportunity. If I stick my neck out and get it wrong, so be it. I will have learned something.”
She did stick her neck out. She taught in the way that felt right to her.
I was a wreck all day yesterday, wondering how her lesson was going. On pins and needles, waiting for her to get home. I felt confident that she was in the right and she’d be leading engaged and lively discussions with her students. But I’m a mom and a former teacher, and I couldn’t help worrying.
And the end of the story is that her lesson was successful. Her students responded very well to her video choice and the way she conducted the conversation.
I’m thrilled to see yet more evidence that she’s truly an excellent teacher. But what really makes my heart sing is her confidence and the professional way she handled herself.
My daughter has life skills at age 22 that I didn’t discover until I was much older. In fact, I think I’m still searching for some of them today.
As a mother, I couldn’t ask for more.