Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaching Without a Net

I have a meeting this morning, at 10:30 a.m., the first internship meeting of the new semester. I'm a little bit excited, a little bit nervous, but mostly I'm curious how this semester's going to go. You see, last semester we had a different internship coordinator. The university I attend has one professor do the first year, another do the first semester of the second year, and a third who takes care of the second semester of the second year. So, as of this semester, in my two years as GA, I've had three bosses, in addition to the department head. It takes a little bit of getting use to, but the switch is so swift and well handled, it's doesn't create a problem. The impending meeting, and Jodi's post about her new student teacher, has gotten me thinking about my experience this semester, and over the last two years, most particularly because this semester I'm completely on my own.

Let me explain. For the last year of our graduate assistantship, my fellow GA and I observed basic writing, taught basic writing labs, and then taught basic writing with an instructor (our boss) to oversee each and every class. It was never wracking, but having that moral support 10 feet away was also really reassuring. The following semester, Fall 2011, we observed a morning English 111 and then taught our own classes around mid-day, but there was no constant observation. We were on our own, except that we had an internship coordinator who we observed, who wrote all of the assignments, and who made all of the class presentation materials, like power point slides and peer review sheets. It was pretty much rinse and repeat, but it was a really good experience because we got to learn how the classroom worked, the speed at which things progressed, and the overall college freshman English experience. Our coordinator came into our classes a few times throughout the semester, to observe, and offer us guidance as to what we could be doing better, but overall, our classes were ours.

This semester, which is the fourth and final semester of the graduate assistantship, we teach English 112 (College Composition and Research), a class we've never so much as observed, save for our time as undergraduates, and we're doing it on our own. We don't have an observation period, we get to decide how our classes will be conducted, what assignments our students will do, what they'll read, when they'll read it, and design all of our own class materials. It's a huge responsibility, one we've undertaken with excitement and a little bit of nerves, and with the guidance of example assignments and syllabus of other professors and instructors who teach this course. So, we're not in the dark, but we are on our own. So far, this semester has been really awesome (except for my hip-mishap and missing a day, already).

Despite my excitement at doing everything on my own, and being in charge of my classroom completely, I'm a little bit sad that this semester ends my term as GA. Now, I have to go out and look for a teaching job, not an easy feat, and I'll probably have to accept adjunct jobs for the first few years, but I've decided that I'm okay with that. Though I've bounced back and forth about whether or not I want to teach, I've decided that it is what I want to do. It's the rewarding moments, the understanding that I was able to give something to my students, that makes this nearly-thankless job worth every second of frustration. My most amazing thesis director, Dr. Y, told me once that if teaching was what I wanted to do that I should just find a way to do it and go for it. She's right, even though that's easier said than done, so that's what I'm going to do... assuming I can find work doing it.

Well, it's almost time for my meeting so I had better find an easy place to end this thing. Dr. F, my internship coordinator, will be observing a few times throughout the semester, something I'm very nervous about, but I have faith that I'm doing a good job and that everything will be well. All I can do is my best, right?! ~.^