Many of my students begin the first semester of our teacher education program with some hesitancy- excited to be starting the education courses, yet a bit fearful of their first fieldwork placement in an urban school. The media-based perceptions of crime and violence in urban areas often leads them to feelings of insecurity and unease. This was the case for one of my students this semester. In her words, “I was apprehensive at first, because I heard horror stories from co-workers while substituting, that the students could be very hostile to young, new people.”
Very quickly her initial perceptions were dispelled. She wrote of her first day how she was greeted by the principal and other staff members who welcomed her into the building. Upon arrival into her assigned classroom, students greeted her and asked all kinds of questions to learn all about her.
As she got to know students and their lives outside of the school she also learned of the many hardships they face at home, though they show up to school every day with smiles. This had an impact on her.
Throughout my time in this class, I learned each of the student’s stories. They wrote about missing their parents because they were in prison or not in the picture anymore. One child drew his bedroom and explained that he slept in a bathtub. Another discussed how she only comes to school twice a week because she needs to care for her younger siblings at home. My heart hurt for them all.
My student’s perceptions certainly did change as she got to know the students and teachers, and as a result, something else changed. In November she came to me unsure she wanted to continue in the program. Her time in the classroom was beneficial but more for her to see that being a teacher is not her chosen career path. Sitting in my office one afternoon, she explained how the fieldwork placement lit another fire in her; one she did not see coming.
In talking with her roommate one night, she spoke of her observation class and the impact of knowing so many of her students are underprivileged, especially during the holidays. As a result of this conversation, she and her roommate set out on a service learning project to do something to help the children in her observation classroom.
Working with the university service learning office and the School of Education, they put together individual holiday bags filled with toys, school supplies and candy. Each bag was labeled with the student’s name, so they could feel special and accountable. Because of the children’s interest and excitement in our university, she also worked with the bookstore to arrange a discount on purchasing university logo shirts for all the students. They delivered the gifts and t-shirts to the class, and needless to say the students were absolutely thrilled to receive their goodies. She told the students the t-shirt was motivational to remind them to keep up with school and do their very best, so they can be a future student at our university.
With a change in her course, my student will graduate next December with a degree in Psychology. She is committed to working with students in need, specifically in urban environments. She plans to work her way up to be a therapist, working in the school system to help underprivileged children and keep them on track to a successful life.
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity of working in the school system this semester. Even though I will not be continuing my studies as an education major, this showed me what career path I was born to do. Without this semester, I would have never known my true potential and calling for helping kids in need.
When she told me of her decision, I think she expected me to show some disappointment. What I did show her was how proud I was of her for coming to this revelation on her own. We should all find our passion in life. I found mine many many (many) years ago, and I couldn’t be happier she has found hers.
Do what you love, and love what you do.
These are my reflections for today.