I feel a bit beat at the moment, but that may just be because the final Art I class of the day was incredibly rough. Today was the third day that I have substituted for my cooperating teacher. Because of a death in the family yesterday, she was out today. She expects she will be out again Friday and again some day next week.
I began the day nervous about taking over. The AP Art, Painting II, and Painting IV classes were simply having work-days in which they would work on the current assignment, so I was not worried for those classes at all. The Art I classes, however, worried me. Yesterday, the Art I classes were given an introductory lesson on Printmaking. They were introduced to a primitive printmaker, shown student examples, and explained the criteria for the assignment. Today, the real mess was to begin.
Right before school started I received an email from my cooperating teacher about the plans for the day. I was thankful, as I was working on plans, myself, in case an email didn’t come. I was instructed to demonstrate the 5 Printmaking Techniques from the poster I tacked on the board on Monday and to have the students follow along, turning in their work at the end of the day. If they finished the demonstration, they would work on their eraser designs. If finished with that, they would draw their chosen designs on their erasers and then begin carving the designs into the erasers. My teacher included what to do in case of injury and gave instructions on how to clean the blood and treat the wounds. This is what scares me most about teaching. I am worried about a student becoming injured and myself doing something incorrect. I’m also terrified of blood, which doesn’t help.
Thankfully, my cooperating teacher’s first class is AP Art, a largely independent class with only four students, so I was able to use that time to prepare for the rest of the day. There were two Art I classes following AP Art and I was nervous for them. I gathered supplies, created a demo demonstration, and planned the schedule for the classes. I was proud to feel prepared by the time the bell rang.
Surprisingly, I believe the first two Art I classes went well. I instructed students to grab two markers, their sketchbooks, and a pre-made eraser from the front of the room as they entered the classroom so that they would be ready to start the demonstration with me. I then led the demonstration while asking several review questions and trying to keep the students engaged. “How many techniques are on the poster? How many colors do we have to use? What do I have to do before I can print again?” I would ask constantly to engage prior knowledge and to keep the students attentive. The demonstration was a bit rocky as some students needed a lot of help while others had completed all 5 techniques before I had even demonstrated them. I allowed students to work ahead as long as they showed me the final product before turning it in and working on their eraser designs. After demonstrating each technique, I would then walk about the class and help students one-on-one. It was difficult to keep a good flow as every student was working at his own pace. Eventually we worked through all the techniques and the students used the last few moments of class to work on their designs.
Using the experience of the first Art I class, I was able to do better with the second class. I told them upfront that they were allowed to work ahead if they showed me the final product before turning it in. I also informed them of how to clean up as the last class wasn’t instructed and needed to be told at the end of class when the bell was about to ring. This class went more smoothly, though it was quite similar to the first. Some students finished within minutes while others needed me to help them one-on-one. This class was the most successful as several students finished the demonstration, their designs, drew their designs on the erasers, and even began carving! After the first class, I wasn’t expecting anyone to start carving today. After showing each student who was going to begin carving how to use the linoleum cutter carefully, I revealed the tools that I had hidden under the teacher’s desk. I didn’t want anyone who didn’t know how to use the tools to get to them.
It was the final Art I class, however, that left me feeling defeated. This class was the largest of the day with nearly 40 students and I found it nearly impossible to keep them under control. There were also several Special Needs students in this class that I needed to accommodate for. I allowed these students to simply practice printing, as per their assistants’ recommendations. I found it incredibly difficult to keep this class under control. The students would not stop talking, even when I asked them to and waited for them to comply. They would not clean the desks when I announced that no one could leave until the desks were clean. There were students constantly crying for my help while others were crying out that they were done and wanted to move on. I found it very difficult to balance between the Special Needs students who couldn’t follow the demonstration, the unmotivated students who wouldn’t even start the assignment without me getting on to them, the struggling students who needed my help, the advanced students who wanted to move on and start carving their designs, and the students who completed the demonstration and simply wanted to talk with their friends and play games on their phones. I felt as if I was trying to wrangle wild animals into several different pens at once.
Unfortunately, at one moment, a student informed me that there were 10 minutes left of class. “Already?!” I exclaimed. The previous classes had no troubles completing the demonstration and even began working on the next assignment. Now it was clean-up time and we had only finished demonstrating 3 of the 5 techniques! That was when I really felt flustered. I struggled as I tried to quiet everyone enough to demonstrate the last two techniques but realized that we would just have to pick up where we left off the next day. The students needed to clean up so that I could ensure all the erasers were washed, the tables cleaned, and the markers put away. I had told the class that no one could leave until that was done and I couldn’t go back on my word now. Thankfully, there was enough time to clean the classroom and the students were permitted to leave.
“You know, you’re a nice young lady, but you need to be more assertive. You need to be stronger in your voice. You’re going to have to toughen up,” the substitute teacher who had been helping to monitor the class all day, told me after class. He was right, though. That last Art I class had defeated me. I felt like I had little control over them. I felt embarrassed. It’s times like these when I feel that I’m not ready to teach high school. I look too young, I speak too softly, and I’m not always confident. I feel that I know the ins and outs of lesson planning, assessment, reaching students one-on-one, but I’m not the best at managing a large, unruly classroom. I have a lot to improve upon.
At the moment, I feel defeated and helpless. I hope that I will be able to learn and improve. I hope that I will find that “teacher voice” that my cooperating teacher said she has yet to hear from me. I hope that I will be able to manage the classroom. I have a lot of concerns about entering the teacher position and I just hope that I haven’t made the wrong decision. I’ve wanted to be a teacher my entire life, I just hope that I’m not the wrong person for the job.