An Eye-Opening Experience

My student teaching experience at Mason City High School has so far been an incredibly eye-opening experience. If I could name the one, most important thing that I’m pulling away from my time here, is that students come from such varied, different, and often difficult backgrounds. 

As an English teacher, especially an English teacher doing a unit on narrative/self writing, I’ve seen, read, and learned so many things about each of my students. They’ve written about their parents, their dreams, their biggest moments, their hobbies and passions, their influences, their experiences with death and pain, their cultures, and tragedies that have affected their lives and who they are as individuals.

In my English 10 class, I’ve had my students write a series of Journals. So far they have written three, but the topics vary from personal tragedy and loss to family and relationships. [To read about the journals, click here: Journal 1, Journal 2, Journal 3].

What really struck me about these journals was the students sharing of their personal lives with me. Journal after journal was submitted or printed, and journal after journal my heart would ache at the responses. A talkative boy in my fourth period wrote about him and his brother living on the streets of Chicago. A girl who often missed my first period class talked about the difficulty of living with a newly-transgender father. One student, a trouble-maker, wrote to me about her painful youth and said at the bottom,

“I want to thank you for being the role model i need the most and i hope and pray i stay for the rest of the year so i can get back on track in my school work. Thank you for everything”. 

After reading that, I closed my computer and cried.

These past weeks have truly changed me. As a teacher, and more importantly, as a person. I have learned that students come from a variety of difficult homes and families. I have learned that my classroom can be their safe haven. And I have learned that being a teacher means much more than instructing and lesson plans. It’s making a difference, every single day, by being a positive, consistent influence in their daily lives. I wish I didn’t have to leave these tenth and eleventh graders in a few weeks.

Here is a gallery of images. My students’ journals, and some of the difficult backgrounds they bring to the classroom.

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