This past academic year, has been a year of discovery for me. It has been a year to step back, really figure out who I am at this point in my life, and make some decisions about logical career paths for me. It was a long and difficult journey, but after months of testing, meeting with a mentor, and personal reflection, my decision finally seemed clear. With excitement, I changed my major and had my heart set on education as my career path. When I announced this to my mentor—who worked with me patiently all year—he was delighted, but cautionary. Due to my indecisive nature, he wanted me to find an opportunity to dive in somewhere this summer in order to be sure. This conversation was what lead me to reach out and seek a teacher aiding position back in Southwick. Once I had received confirmation that it was possible, and all of the necessary paperwork was turned in, I arrived at the high school, ready to work.
The first three days I was able to work alongside Mrs. Tetrault and her two freshman classes. This was an eye opening experience for me because it was the first time that I was really seeing the other side of the academic spectrum. The classes I was working with were mainly kids with learning disabilities, behavioral issues, and students moving at a lower caliber. In my high school experience, I was learning alongside the advanced students, moving at a faster pace, and encountering a different student-teacher dynamic. It was important for me to see Mrs. Tetrault in front of these classes. She was able to handle them in a manner that was conducive to learning, keeping them on task, and having some fun in between. It was a different posture than I was used to seeing. I was able to take away a lot from these classes because she altered her teaching style to fit the learning needs of these students. It made me see that flexibility is a very necessary tool in teaching. The same method will not work on every classroom, and that is completely okay, so long as the teacher can adapt.
The rest of my time at the high school was spent between one of Mrs. Tetrault’s freshman classes, and two of Ms. Grunwald’s sophomore classes. The college preparatory level sophomores were a new experience from the freshman I had previously observed. Although the sophomore students were similar in their attitude towards education, the way the classroom was handled was different. I appreciated that the students were allowed a certain degree of freedom within the classroom and its assignments. I feel that this method allowed the kids to ease into the responsibilities that will come with their higher education, without overwhelming them. The students are expected to be responsible for their own work and I think that is a really important thing to keep in mind when managing a classroom that is learning at a slower pace. I found it very easy to want to grant a lot of mercy toward these students in their assignments, but I was shown that it cannot always be done. However, the most important skill that I was able to witness and learn from in both teachers was their passion for their work. It was very apparent in every classroom setting that both Mrs. Tetrault, and Ms. Grunwald love what they do. That is easily what makes them such successful educators.
Overall, I had an extremely positive experience. This has really affirmed my choice to switch majors and I feel confident that education is the right field for me. Although there was not always much for me to do, there was always so much for me to observe. In the future, I think that delegating a little more responsibility to the Teacher Aid is helpful, but not required. I was able to monitor a few classroom situations, and grade a few papers which was a really important part of this experience for me. Even in the “boring” work, I was happy. Both Mrs. Tetrault and Ms. Grunwald made me feel welcome in their classrooms and allowed me to participate in their learning environment. I am grateful for this experience and all that it has taught me, if I could do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing!