Freaking. Out.

August 22, 2007 at 9:45 am 2 comments

This morning when I got to work, I received the following email from my university mentor, BR:

Hello Kate we missed you at the meeting yesterday.

I have attached a handout for you that I gave out at the meeting.

See you next week.

The last time I spoke to BR, he told me that we would probably meet the 27th or 28th. I never heard anything about a meeting yesterday. Upon reflection, I’m guessing that what happened is that they announced the meeting during class – and I’m not in that class, because I already took it.

I am so unhappy to have missed that meeting. I am trying very hard to convince myself otherwise, but the truth is that I’m scared. I know that I can teach – I’ve done it. I know that I can deal with teenagers – I do it all the time. But when I read the handout, when I read books about teaching, something clenches up in my stomach and I’m just terrified. I intended the title “full of bees” to be a homage to a favorite teacher and to be descriptive of the teaching experience (it’s a complicated, bad metaphor) but instead it seems to be describing the contents of my gut….

I don’t recall ever feeling this scared about anything in my entire life. I guess that probably indicates something, but I’m not yet sure what.

I was really looking forward to meeting with BR and the other people in my program so that I could be reassured a bit, have that psychological reminder that there’s a support system there. (At this point I know I’m just having some sort of mental wig-out that needs to be patted on the head.) Now I’m freaked out, plus I probably look bad for having missed this first meeting. It’s not my fault, but still – bleh.

Am going to post the contents of the handout so that I have an electronic record of it and so that anyone who reads this and is interested will understand my program a bit more.


To: Teaching Interns
From: BR, English Education

I look forward to working with you as your “University Liaison” for your teaching internship. Internships are intended to give you opportunities to learn to teach as you help your mentor teacher in the classroom. The more you can help your mentor teacher, the more valuable teaching experience you can gain for yourself.

Your internship situation is a little bit different from the traditional model. It is a university-school partnership called a “Professional Development School” model. In part, that means that the English teachers and I will collaborate with you to see if we can make your teaching experiences more flexible and more useful to you than the traditional approach to student-teaching. This is likely to include, among other things, that you will probably work with several different teachers and grade levels at various times during the semester, rather than sticking with only one teacher or class. It also means that I will sometimes ask you to talk with other interns (and perhaps other teachers) in “teaching labs” about lessons that you give and lessons you have observed. Early in the semester I will talk with you about where you are in your teaching preparation and the kinds of experiences that you feel would best prepare you to student teach and then establish your own classroom.

To get started this semester, please contact the mentor teacher listed below:

Kate and Dan contact DR at CHS. [contact info]

Debbie contact DB at CHS. [contact info]

Please arrange to meet your mentor teacher. In your first meeting, get a little bit acquainted and then try to schedule when you will be working with them. You should plan to work about ten hours per week, but remember that 150 hour requirement for the semester is a minimum; there is no maximum, but it’s up to you to be clear about when you will be leaving the internship. Of course, you must work around your university class schedule and your mentor teacher’s prep period, etc. and when they can most use your help. I strongly recommend that you plan to work in the same class at least twice per week so that you can really get to know at least one group of kids, keep up with what’s going on in class, and therefore be more helpful and actively involved in the classroom. Give your mentor teacher your contact information, and ask how you should best contact them should an emergency keep you from coming to the school. If for some reason you cannot get to the school when the teacher expects you, contact the teacher at the earliest possible time! (Being dependable and responsible are important job traits. And teachers will not give you important things to do if they don’t feel they can wholly depend upon you.)

When you have worked out your schedule, please email your schedule to me. Please send the schedule from the email address that you would like me to use to correspond with you.

In regard to teaching, you will usually begin with a short period of observation in which you should note the kinds of instruction are going on in the classroom and think about how you could fit in and be of assistance. Also, of course, watch the kids closely to learn what they are like and how they learn. After some brief initial observation, you are expected to get busy in the classroom. At first this might mean doing small or routine things, like handing out papers or giving a quiz or moving around the room to help students as they work on an assignment. Your teaching responsibilities should gradually increase, culminating of course in student teaching when you will take over a teacher’s entire teaching load for a minimum of five or six weeks. The responsibilities that you will take on depend on your teacher’s needs and their judgment of your readiness to assume teaching responsibilities. The secondary school students’ welfare and learning are always the primary concern. Among other things, please talk with your mentor teacher about your role in classroom management and discipline in your classes. Have this conversation early, and follow through consistently. In general, remember that even if you are just beginning, you are in the school in the role of a teacher and you must adapt your language, behavior, and interactions with students and teachers according to professional expectations. Even your clothing should fit in with what other teachers in the building wear.

Your mentor teacher may naturally be more focused on his/ her students than on what to do with you. So after you have observed for a bit, if the teacher has not put you to work, see if you can make suggestions to the teacher about ways that you might become involved in some of the teaching. Check your ideas with the teacher first, but be looking for ways you could help out and suggest them to the teacher.

It is a requirement of your internship to write periodic self-reflections and to keep a log of the time you spend. On the Blackboard web site called “Teaching Internship” you will post your required five reflections on your teaching experiences (one for each 30 hours of teaching) in Discussion Board; the form for the Log is in Blackboard under Course Documents. Be ready to show your log to me or your mentor teachers. You may count some of your time preparing or grading at home, but not more than 20% of your total time. For the rest you should be working with kids. Turn in a copy of your Log to me (your University Supervisor) when you have completed your required hours.

Let’s face an awkward fact: your mentor teacher’s main job is to teach his/ her students, not to teach you. Showing you how to effectively help with teaching duties, and providing advice and supervision along the way, will take the teacher extra time and energy at first, and teachers don’t have much time. So be as helpful as you can be, and as considerate of the teacher’s time as possible. In return for their time, your mentor teacher should by the end of the semester feel they have been repaid by all the good help you have given them. In the end, your work should have made your teacher’s job less difficult or more effective, not harder. In return, you should have gained teaching skills and experience.

As your University Supervisor, I will meet with you and your mentor teacher(s) early in the semester to be sure you’ve made a good start. During the semester, I’d like to watch you when you are involved in teaching activities, and I’ll provide feedback when I am there. I will check with you and your teacher(s) periodically during your internship. Near the end of the semester, we will have an evaluation meeting.

Officially, in undertaking this internship you, as the intern, enter into a contractual agreement with the mentor teacher, the school, and the university. Among other things, you agree to comply with all policies and procedures of the school and with rules of confidentiality and decorum, to work conscientiously under your teacher’s direction, and report serious problems (including physical, safety, and personnel). Time spent as a paid substitute teacher does not count toward your internship credit since having a mentor is an important aspect of your learning. Interns are evaluated by the university in reference to the state Core Teacher Standards, which you can find in the External Links button in the internship course web site, or on the College of Education web site.

I’d like to emphasize that internships are supposed to be learning experiences. It is not expected that in becoming a teacher you will simply imitate your mentor. When you have your own classroom, you will do things your own way. While you are assisting your mentor teacher, you very likely will be expected to teach some things your mentor’s way and not yours. Go ahead and do it, and then watch students carefully to see if your predictions about the lesson were accurate. You may learn some surprisingly useful skills this way. Even when things don’t work well, you can learn a lot about teaching by observing carefully and thinking reflectively about what happened—and what could happen next time.

If you have a problem in your internship, to update me on any changes you make in your internship, or for any other reason, please contact me as soon as possible.

I look forward to watching your successful entry into the teaching profession.


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Answers! Meeting my Mentor!

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nick  |  August 22, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    I intended the title “full of bees” to be a homage to a favorite teacher and to be descriptive of the teaching experience (it’s a complicated, bad metaphor) but instead it seems to be describing the contents of my gut….

    Thanks for putting the Teen Literacy Tips feed on your site! I really appreciate it.

    And don’t worry about the fear. Nervousness is a good thing. It means you care. If you didn’t care you wouldn’t worry about how you’re going to do.

    You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers as the new school year begins. Cheers!

  • 2. Jennie  |  August 22, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Trust me, you are not alone on the freaking out thing. I had the word “worrying” written nearly as big as it is on your sidebar on my whiteboard today! (It was followed with the sentence–“My classroom is a mess–and it is driving me insane!”).
    You’ll survive! Stress is part of the life of a teacher, I think–but you’ll learn to manage it.


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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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