As I sit in here tonight, feeling completely unfazed about another Monday tomorrow, I sigh in great relief. It has been weeks since I last felt like I had a proper weekend. Most of the time, I've been up to my eyeballs with work - both the chore variety (cooking, cleaning, laundry...) and the prac variety (lesson planning, researching, preparing resources... ).
This weekend, however, I spent mostly doing nothing (or, as near to nothing as possible). Probably just in time too! I'm definitely feeling the effects of the past six weeks, as I'm now suffering from flu and having an almost non-existent voice.
But, in spite the health downer, I'm celebrating. Yes, my final teaching practicum is over!
I still have a case study and a film to finish, as well as a couple of seminars to attend this semester. But, I'm almost 3/4 of the way through this Masters' programme. Then, just one more semester to go and I'll be donning the gown and cap. Can you believe it?
I've been so completely overwhelmed in many ways during this last prac that I had. That's why between wiping bodily fluids, surviving getting physically tackled by students, and facing all sorts of challenges and complex issues, I feel like I've definitely earned every minute of this prac. 😀
You see, entering my first ever special ed class at Week 1, I began to wonder what on earth made me choose Special Education as a specialty area. Although I worked in the field of disability for years (in a psych-related role), I wasn't prepared to face what I experienced in that classroom. As the days went by, and a few other challenges came up, I even began to question my sanity for choosing teaching as a career.
Then, I came across my "tipping point" --- that moment when I felt like it was going to be make or break for me.
Thankfully, something clicked. And, when that happened, things just turned around. So, the last 2.5 weeks of my prac became an incredible experience that made up for the earlier challenges.
You see, in spite the challenging nature of my class (that's the first thing my university liaison/ mentioned to me after my first teaching observation: "Uh... you certainly have quite a complex group of kids!" (Well, yeah....) --- my students have definitely grown on me.
That's why during the last few weeks of prac, I remembered why I'm doing this... I remembered what makes this teaching gig rock. No matter how much of a thankless task it may all seem to be at times.
When, out of the blue, a challenging student would say, "I think you did great teaching, Ms Shai."
And, when another set of kids in different classes say, "We'll miss you, Ms Shai. Will you come back?"
And, when you get a class full of low attention span kids (with varying disabilities) completely riveted in what you're saying/doing/teaching...
And, when you get a smile/high five from a kid who usually tells teachers to f*** off...
And, when a group of kids insist that it's not time to end the class yet (saying things like "Your watch is wrong! Not pack up time yet.")...
And, when a couple of teachers I worked with ended up being more than just complimentary to my teaching (one of the teachers I worked with even gave me a 'positive prophecy' - saying that I'd "go a long way" in the field of education... she said that she could clearly see my passion and that I should be given the opportunity to spread my enthusiasm and skills... Very kind of her, hmmm?!)
Even on the last day of prac, from the moment I stepped out of my car, I've had students coming up to me with presents and amazing words like "You're a good teacher, Ms Shai. Can you please stay?" and "You're the best student teacher we've ever had. We're really going to miss you."
And, when a couple of "tough kids" in class end up bursting in to tears at the thought of saying goodbye... I was really taken aback.
That's why when my students eagerly showed me their collective "goodbye poster" (photo above), I had no chance of staying cool, calm, and collected. I burst out crying, completely overwhelmed with the kind of affection that I was getting. I felt humbled and honoured.
Those are definitely moments when teaching almost becomes like magic.
It certainly has been excruciatingly hard work. I've always admired what teachers do, but I don't think I ever appreciated just how much hard work it can all be. That's why I've been on a certain kind of euphoria since the school bell rang at the end of the day on the 28th of May.
But, the great thing is: I can't wait to experience more of that magic.