My First Teaching Experience

20160705_115143_1467854642723_resizedAt the time of this post, I am teaching my second day of Build Your Own Story workshops at a local day camp. I will freely admit that I never wanted to be a teacher. I haven’t the temperament for it, nor the calling. While I have been told I am a good teacher, I find that true mostly in one-on-one situations. Put me in front of a group, and I get the jitters.

This is a reflection of my own weaknesses—I am an introvert, and I hate being the center of attention. Of course, as most teachers know, there are always some kids who are not paying attention to you, and that makes it worse. When I feel like I am not connecting with my audience, I wonder what I am doing wrong, how am I failing them?

20160705_105856_1467854645496_resizedPerhaps I am not doing anything wrong, but simply have to find ways to engage the kids better. In my first teaching experience, I taught (separately), 1st/2nd graders, 3rd graders, and 4th graders (I have the 5th/6th graders today). The 1st-3rd grade classes were fun—the kids were eager, they had ideas, they wanted to be heard. And since I have a 6-year-old, I could relate easily to them.

The 4th grade class was harder. About half the class actively participated, the rest sat and watched silently. At least they were polite and didn’t talk through the class. And a few of them sparked up a bit by the end. Truthfully, I think I panicked when they didn’t all seem eager and turned the class into more of a lecture than a participatory event, which may have caused them to further withdraw.

20160705_105844_1467854647348_resizedI am going to try something different with the 5th/6th grade today. A Jigsaw Story. Once we discuss the 5 basic story elements, I will break them up into 4 groups, and give each group a few minutes to come up with one of the first 4 elements—without knowing what the other groups are thinking. Then we will put what I hope will be 4 wildly incompatible and therefore funny elements on the board and strive to make a coherent Plot out of them. At least it will get them talking and being social and hopefully help loosen them up. We’ll see.

The experience so far has been a rewarding one. My most memorable moment came when I had finished with the 1st graders and one little boy started to cry. I asked why he was crying and his friend told me that he was sad because he had not gotten to write his own story about lions and tigers (today they get to write their own stories). So I got down on his level and asked him to tell me his story.

I had to ask a few leading questions, but in just minutes his hands were no longer covering his face and the tears had dried. His story spilled out of him (and it was a good story, too!), and his passion and eagerness wiped away the disappointment. To me, this was a pure lesson in the power of story. All this little boy wanted was to share his story. For his voice to be heard.

On the whole, my first experience teaching kids has been a good one. The kids have been creative and eager and I hope I can learn from them how to be a better teacher.






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