Kassie Neumann

About Kassie Neumann

Midwest native and Adolescent English Education Major at Nyack College. I thrive on poetry, mentoring, deep conversations, and really loud laughter. I believe that Christ, community, and cups of tea can restore the world. Wonder and mystery are two of my favorite words.

Life Lessons I Learned From My Professors

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Friends,

There are only weeks left in the semester. For some of you, the stress is overwhelming every minute of these last weeks. You’re panicking. You might even be starting to doubt yourself and ask, “why did I decide to go to college?”

Remember your dream.

Remember your vision.

Above all keep moving.  Above all keep praying, my friends. You will make it through. You know how I know this?

I know this, because right now I’m a senior staring down the last three weeks of an undergraduate career in the face. I’ve been where you’re at, many, many, many times. You’re going to make it. Keep moving and keep praying.

I want to mention, though, that college is not all stress. Right now, perhaps that’s all you can see, but I’d like to remind you of one of the beautiful, amazing gifts of college. That gift, especially at a college like Nyack where classes are tightly-knit, is the ability to learn from your professors about more than just textbook information. I’ve had the privilege of sitting in class, and learning so many lessons about life from my professors. The professors at Nyack have made my entire experience. Here’s a few life lessons I’ve learned from them:

Dr. Buel: There is power in the word “yet”. Don’t say, “I can’t do this”. Instead, you need to say, “I can’t do this–yet”. That class changed my life.

Dr. Gates: Work faithfully and holistically. Every part of your life matters and is integrated together. (Also, a little known fact is that Dr. Gates slips fantastic relationship advice into his lectures).  

Dr. Beach: Christianity is full of wonder and mystery, and a fair-amount of good humor. Take Oxford Christian Writers with him. Do it!

Dr. Pinkham: Everything in life doesn’t need to fit into a nice labeled box. You’re going to face things in life that can’t be either/or, but will be both/and. Embrace that. If you take Short Story class with him, it will change your life.

Dr. Davis Abdullah: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Use your voice. What you’re saying matters, and do not be afraid to say it well. Do your research.

Dr. Nichols: When you’re a teacher care about your students. You can have all your material memorized, but don’t forget about the heart of teaching. Care about your students.

Professor Locke: Servant leadership works both in theory and in practice, and if we lead through servant leadership we are reflecting Christ.

Dr. Dueck: Wrestle with your faith, for that is the only way to have true faith. Read a lot of Kierkegaard.

Dr. Looney: Believing in people is just as powerful as what you do for them. Pray always.

Professor Linda Poston: Faithful hospitality will change the world, or at least the heart of a homesick college student. Cover your life in Scripture.

How to Defy Disappointment With Beauty

I’m writing this blog post right now, and this week I really don’t know where I’m going with this post. Usually when I write, I have some sort of idea. Usually I have a title at least etched out, and I work from there. This week I have nothing. These passed few weeks have been wild, terrible, blessed, wretched.

I believe in honesty. I believe in realness.

The last few weeks I have experienced wild, wild, bizarre, crazy hopes. The last few weeks I have experienced disappointments crush those hopes and others in a steady rhythm. Two weeks ago I had one of the hardest weeks of my college experience. Everything important fell apart at the same time. I was dealing with conflict that felt far, far out of my league, and being handed problems and disappointments I never thought I’d have to deal with while still in college. I felt all over the placed, scattered like sunflower seeds being tossed to a rootless wind.

I like to tell myself that I’m pretty good at keeping it together…

That week I became a little unmoored, and suddenly I lacked direction. Last week, I bought sunflowers and arranged them in a vase. I did this as a defiance against the chaos, against the disappointment, against the rage and the fighting surrounding me, against feeling unmoored, against feeling rootless. Beauty is defiance.

It’s a cry against a utilitarian world which seeks to use and consume everything in its path.

Beauty defies disappointment. Beauty teaches you to look beyond yourself–beyond the cracks and tears in your own world. I think part of the reason that happens, is because there’s really no point in beauty, right? At least no practical point. Placing flowers in a vase doesn’t offer a solution to your problems, actually displaying some sunflowers will change nothing about your circumstances, but such an act can and will defy the idea that your circumstances will engulf you, overcome you into silence. Beauty reaches into your life and mentions offhandedly, that life will one day be different. I think also, for me at least, placing flowers in a vase is a declaration that I will not be ruled by my circumstances. Nothing changed with those sunflowers, nothing at all, but perhaps the core of who I am is not tied to my circumstances. Perhaps we can lift our eyes to the simple wonder of golden petals framed by a fierce red sun streaming through a window, and see joy. Dearest of friends, joy is not found in circumstances.

Then today. Fast forward to today where I received wild, amazing news, news I had resigned to the “this is never going to happen” section of life. I’m still trying to process everything as I type this post. My life is still wrecked from that week, about half of it is still ripped, torn apart, a mangled mess. A great deal of what happened that week is still out of my control. There is nothing I can do, no strategy I can offer to fix everything. Suddenly all my distracted self can do is to have my knees hit the floor each morning in quiet, steady need. I’m not saying that to sound spiritual. I’m admitting this, because in my frailty and need there is nothing else to do. Receiving wild, amazing news changes none of that need. I’m praying out of that need, and now I’m asking for strength to meet this crazy news, and I’m praying that through You that whatever may come that we may defy the world with the beauty of sunflowers.

Student Teaching: Placement Switch

It is exactly the middle of November. As most of you know, I’m in the middle of student teaching. The way student teaching works is that your semester is split into two placements. My certification will be to teach 7th-12th Grade English , and as a result my first placement was at a middle school. Those eighth grade students completely and wholly stole my heart. The last day I was there my cooperating teacher passed around a card for them to sign. Each period thought that they’d expertly hidden this card, as they tried to pass it around.

They forgot that teachers have eyes in the back of their heads.

They were going to hand the card to me at the end of the day, but some student accidentally packed it away with their books and made off with it in their backpack. They sheepishly handed me this light purple envelope–all that remained of their thank-you. I laughed, laughed, and laughed again. You just have to love the eighth grade.

Now, life has swung in an entirely different direction. I’m at my second placement working with tenth graders. Art explodes from every corner of this school. They understand that art is as necessary to life as lunch period. The students are filled with thoughts. Creativity is a valued strength at this school. This school welcomed me about six seconds after I walked through the building.

Now, life is rather different. Teaching high school English means that you have to prep multiple materials for multiple classes. I’d never really thought through that one. I entered my student teaching experience, embarrassingly without even a folder. Now, I carry binders, folders, and have developed a system necessary for survival. Forced improvement can be a beautiful work of art.

Now, I am learning how to grapple with texts I was afraid to teach. The class I’m teaching is going through Othello at the moment. All things Shakespeare happen to be a deep passion of mine, but for some odd reason I had never read Othello in any of my classes or personal reading. My cooperating teacher had kindly emailed in advance to tell me that we’d be covering Othello during my time at the school. Panic ripped through my chest. You don’t just wing teaching Shakespeare, and Shakespeare requires heavy interpretation. English teachers can be a rather opinionated bunch when it comes to textual interpretation. I feared getting it all wrong.

But…I decided to shove down my panic, and move forward. That’s a lesson I’ve been learning in more areas than just student teaching–shove down the fear, move forward. I began studying Othello, grappling with the text, characters, and themes.

Now, we just finished a lesson segment where the students acted out a scene from the play. Helping students untangle the rich language of Shakespeare, laughing as they add “wandering torchbearers” to their performances, and applauding as they leap out of their comfort zones to perform in front of their peers is amazing.

Now, now is the time to learn, now is the time to face silly fears such as teaching Shakespeare, now is the time to build relationships with students, and now is the time to revel in distinct joy.

The Distinct Joy of Exercising in College

There’s the shift of your feet across pavement, it’s the air entering your lungs and exiting in sharp, cold breaths–oxygen flowing into your bloodstream. Your feet toss leaves aside. You toss everything aside: exams, the homework you’ve been struggling through, the family drama going down at home, the endless text messages wearing you down, the fact that your brain hurts from thinking about it all. You toss aside everything as you run through the fallen leaves on this gorgeous campus that God has given you. You run and are finally at peace, as you separate yourself from everything. It’s just you, the Lord, and the pavement. This is why running is a distinct joy for me.

This is why I’m an advocate of exercising in college.

I wasn’t always this way. In high school, I was on a swim team, but in college exercise wasn’t exactly my thing. My parents forced me to hike and exercise with them. I despised hiking. I liked poptarts.

A couple of years ago, two events changed my perspective. (Okay, don’t judge the honesty here.)

  1. I got stuck working inside a stuffy pizza shop all summer. I smelled like cheese and grease from May-August. Suddenly, I craved being outside, and would find every excuse to drag the trash out to the dumpster just to feel the sun on my skin, just to feel human again. Suddenly exercising outdoors sounded like a wonderful idea.
  2. I had a crush on a runner. He was running solo, and of course he needed someone to run with him… (F.Y.I: That relationship did not work out, but I discovered a love for running through that experience.)

Yes, honesty. Anyway, once I started exercising I realized how much of a positive change it was in my life:

  1. It became a way to release stress, and use up energy that before I started running, I had been pouring into worry and anxiety-filled thoughts.
  2. Running made me focus and concentrate more in school. It just did.
  3. I started realizing how healthy running was for my body.
  4. It forced me to manage my time better. Running required me to plan out when I was going to run each week, and that planning made me balance my life in more healthy ways.
  5. Exercise can be an opportunity to pray. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to pray during an intense workout, but all workouts are not intense. Sometimes it’s wonderful to run at a slower pace, just enjoy nature, and enjoy the peace of Christ.

So. What I offer to you is this: find your groove. Figure out the types of exercise you enjoy. Maybe you’re into running, lacrosse, soccer, lifting weights, ping-pong, or dancing? Figure it out, and start exercising regularly. It doesn’t have to be anything insane, but set a goal and stick with it. Set small, attainable goals for yourself. Running three blocks farther than the last time you ran is an example of this. Running a marathon the first day you buy running shoes is not.

Also, don’t get hung up on everyone showing off on Instagram. They’re probably spending more time taking the picture than exercising anyway. Exercise for yourself–not other people. Enjoy yourself, as you start exercising in college. Enjoy the distinct joy.

Christmas Hope Starts in November

Color fades from the leaves. High School students are beginning to eye the piles of leaves in their neighbors’ yards, and translate them into quick cash. Fall holidays are over, and the world waits as the days of pumpkins and apple cider fade into icy temperatures and sweaters. It’s November. Right now, I’m listening to Christmas music. I know, I know…all you haters out there…

There tend to be two types of people.

There are the people who passionately love Christmas music. You can catch this kind of person slipping Bing Crosby records into Harvest Party playlists. This kind of person can bring ebullient joy, but can also disgust everyone around them with this excess of holiday cheer.

The second type of person loathes Christmas music, is upset that radio stations begin mentioning the topic after Thanksgiving, and this person goes into hiding two weeks before Christmas when that’s all that’s being played on the airwaves.

Admittedly, I’m the first type of person. I passionately love Christmas music. Actually, I passionately love Christmas in general. If you don’t, that’s alright, but let me explain why I’m preparing for Christmas in November.

Christ found me in a frozen December. That’s quite a story, but nevertheless December is when I became a Christian. The entire season of Christmas means a great deal to me because of this, and as a result I associate Christmas with hope, with a Savior.

The older I get, the more grateful I am to be given a season in which hope is celebrated. The world can be a dreadful, dark, and despairing place. Our world can be so cold and so cruel. Sometimes I find my soul growing cold with the weather. I get more impatient with people. My thoughts become more cynical and self-protective. It’s ugly. The hope of redemption, of Christ coming as child and as our Redeemer, draws me out of that. That’s why a few years ago I started a ritual of reading The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens every Christmas. I know, I know. All you English majors out there are going to roll your eyes and say, “Oh, that’s just a morality tale written for Post-Industrial England”. I don’t particular care. I read Dicken’s novel every year, because Scrooge’s redemptive experience reminds me that redemption is a possibility despite our wretched darkness. It reminds me that Hope is living, and we were not born for despair.

The idea that redemption and hope exist is the reason I find myself turning on Christmas music in November, and the reason I have Christmas rituals. This time is the advent of Hope. Friends, no matter what your feelings are about Christmas, consider what living in expectation of Christ’s birth can do in your own life? Living in expectation of Christ’s birth can make us more hopeful human beings, more grateful that Christ would redeem us, and more apt to spread our gratitude among our brothers and sisters.

Brothers and Sisters,

Despair not.

For years ago, Hope was born among us.

We can be redeemed.

Merry Christmas

What Are We Saying? Creating Substance in Communication

Ink stained fingers, feeling paper between your thumb and index finger, the sound a pencil makes as it etches words across a page, these are all experiences associated with the practice of writing a letter.

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately–”laughing” a dangerous pastime, I know.

I’ve been thinking about the millstone-carrying weight of our words, and how modern formats seem to shape their substance, or lack of substance. Let me explain:

You shoot a text message.

You type. You press send. Immediately.

How much thought goes into those words?

I’m not speaking about avoiding spelling and grammatical mistakes–I’m speaking about understanding the ideas we craft with words and the strength they carry.

“Press send now” is our culture. Don’t get me wrong, I text and have a thriving Instagram account, but a couple weeks ago I was presenting a lesson to my class where they had to write a letter of their own. We read an article that discussed the idea of how modern culture can rob our words of weight, of thought. The article listed reasons why people in 2016 should still practice the art of letter writing. One of those reasons was that writing letters slows us. It causes us to value words, to tally up the cost to ourselves and the other person before we seal those words into an envelope, and ferry them away with a stamp.

Talking with eighth graders about this idea of ways to create more quality communication was an absolute privilege, as is blogging about this idea.

Friends,

I challenge you.

I implore you. Write a letter. Slow yourself. Write a letter to someone you deeply care for and give them your time. Evaluate the weight of your words. We write and speak so much fluff, meaningless drivel. My theory for why this happens is two-pronged. First of all, we’re terrified to reveal anything of substance about ourselves, as we’re haunted by a fear of rejection. Secondly, substance takes time and thought–investment. Substance takes time to craft which few of us seem to have. Fluff is easier.

What is the burden of our words?

This is a challenge for men and women as well. Sometimes there’s this weird idea that letter writing is for women who write on fluffy, pink, perfumed stationery? I hate fluffy, pink, perfumed stationery. I’m not sure when that idea became popular? (It wasn’t always a popular idea. Check out Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln’s manly letters.)

Also, I’m not writing that we ought to destroy our phones and computers. This is our age and we burn with its pros and its cons. Technology is ours and is a wonderful tool. However, it is the cry of my soul that our words would carry substance, depth–meaning. Creating substance in modern formats of texting and social media is more difficult but not impossible. That’s one of the reasons why I advocate so strongly for taking a trip back to the dark ages and writing a letter, it means for a moment we are able to slow ourselves, and grapple with what our words mean for us and for others. Then we just might be able to look back on our text messages, tweets, and Instaposts, and wonder what we’ve been saying all along.

8th Grade Books For Old Souls

Powerful, poignant, moving us with the heart of their stories, those were many of the books I read in middle school and high school. Many of the books we read during that season of life shaped who I became later. Books have the power to do that, you know. As I’m student teaching this semester, I’m revisiting many of those books. They’re books mostly taught in middle school and high school, but they seem to speak to something deeper in all of us. They’re books you ran across in eighth, ninth, and tenth grade, but they’re really for old souls. You can enjoy some of these titles whether you’re an eighth grader, college sophomore, or a ninety year old sitting in a rocking chair on your front porch.

What I wanted to do with this post, was to create a book list of “8th Grade Books For Old Souls”. You are certainly busy right now as a college student, and your eyes might be weary from wrestling with the likes of Decartes in Philosophy Class, understanding the Magna Carta in World Civ., or balancing equations in Chemistry 101. Sometimes though, fiction can be a break from that kind of intensive reading. There’s nothing like curling up with a cup of tea in your dorm room on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and pulling out a book that has heart. Here are some of those books:

  1. A Long Way From Chicago: Richard Peck–This is a fantastic laugh that chronicles the adventures of Joey and Mary Alice, two siblings from Chicago who annually get sent to their crazy grandmother’s house in small-town America. It’s a coming of age story filled with the zany, the bizarre, and the force of nature–their grandmother.
  1. Out of the Dust: Karen Hesse–Written in poetic format, this book is about a girl named Billie Jo who is growing up in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. The emotion of this book is intense as Billie Jo wrestles with deep family tragedy, poverty, and becoming a woman during all this.
  1. The Outsiders: S.E. Hinton–You might have read this in ninth grade. Read it again. You’ll get so much more from it this time. This is the story of a kid named Ponyboy and the rival gangs of the Socs and Greasers. Themes of belonging, figuring out who you are, and family are beautifully woven throughout this novel. “Stay gold, Ponyboy”.
  1. The House on Mango Street: Sandra Cisneros–You probably could read this book in an hour. It’s written in chapter/essay format and follows the life of Esperanza Cordero, a girl struggling to find her place as she grows up in the heart of an immigrant community in Chicago. Her story illustrates challenges facing urban communities, but Esperanza Cordero’s determined spirit seems to give courage to us all.
  1. Boy and Going Solo: Roald Dahl–Technically, these books are both autobiographies. Both books are entertaining and fantastic, filled with Dahl’s stories of growing up in England and eventually fighting as a pilot in World War II. If you read both books, you’ll find at the end that Dahl’s experiences have shaped him into a man.

Meet Professor Kirsten Luba of the School of Education

Friends,

This week there’s someone I’d like you to meet. I’ve known her during my entire college experience in the School of Education, and she has been an example of service that is faithful and does not need to announce itself. I’ve learned an incredible amount from watching this woman quietly work. Meet Professor Kristen Luba:

  1. What Was Your Major in College?

 

Well, originally I thought I was going to be a missionary. My mom encouraged me to get my undergrad in something other than missions, so I chose teaching and thought I might be able to teach on the missions field.

 

  1. What Did Your Life After Graduating Nyack Look Like?

I didn’t end up getting the job I expected due to circumstances out of my control. It was one of those, “God, what are you doing right now?” moments. Then I came back to Nyack and worked for the School of Education as the Administrative Assistant, worked on a Masters in Intercultural Studies at the Seminary, and ended up meeting my husband.

 

  1. What’s Your Favorite Part about Working at Nyack College?

The people. I love the Education Department.

 

  1. If You Could Design and Teach Any Course What Would It Be?

I’d love to design a course about constructing curriculum for faith-based organizations. For instance, the course would teach students how to build curriculum for Vacation Bible Schools.

 

  1. What’s One Piece of Advice You’d Like to Give to Students?

Don’t be afraid to take school seriously.

 

  1. Do You Have a Favorite Verse or Quote?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV). Professor Luba’s take on this is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, even though His plans may look like woven weirdness”.

 

  1. Is There Any Advice You’d Like to Give Education Majors?

Yes, teaching is one of the most amazing and impacting professions there is throughout the good, the bad, and the ugly–it is worth the effort and the investments.

Also, you’re not dealing with products and computer screens. You’re dealing with the persons of the future, and you have an opportunity to mold students.

 

              Things You Didn’t Know about Professor Luba:

  1. When she was a senior and student teaching, she received the Apple Award from the School of Education. The Apple Award is given out to one student teacher each year who demonstrates excellent skills and service in student teaching.
  2. She’s worked at Nyack for sixteen years.
  3. During her sophomore year at Nyack she played on the volleyball team. She was taking volleyball for her Physical Education credit. The coach came up to her later and asked her to join the team.

Deep Relationships and Tea

Steam draws itself from the water kettle. I’ve always thought tea kettles were akin to works of art. Perhaps it’s the way the steam circles into the air, or the time it takes to breathe, to rest before the kettle begins singing and your water is ready. We gather together. My friend sets out the tea in the rows of Apple, Ginger, Blueberry, the truest of Chai, and faithful black tea. Before college I thought tea tasted like boiled water with a hint of dried up leaves. “Laughing”, thankfully college and a fantastic roommate changed my prejudice towards tea. Sometimes coffee and the occasional cup of hot chocolate are on the menu, but usually the conversation is steeped in the courage of tea bags. Conversation and the gathering of courage, that is why we are gathering here among friends to sip tea.

I’m advocating here for that–to set aside a time in your week to gather with friends and drink tea. Let me explain…

We live in a culture where constant movement is valued. We pack our schedules and ourselves full, and we pencil people into moments between our productivity. We need to slow ourselves down and gather with others in an agendaless setting. Sometimes I wonder if we shy away from these settings because we’re terrified of sharing ourselves, and we’re tired of silence with friends that the frailty of words cannot fill. We do spend time with people, though. In fact we waste lots of time with people. I’m speaking about the times we’re on our phone while hanging out with friends, or the many times we end up only talking about celebrity gossip, complaining, or discussing general superficiality. Those are the times we waste ourselves with people.

Another reason we avoid some of these settings, is that there’s also something terrifying about spending real, true time with someone, sipping tea together, and having to look them in the eye. Other cultures do this all the time. They have a daily coffee or tea hour. Economic and educational opportunities abound in our culture, but perhaps we sacrifice the deepening of vital relationships for personal productivity.

I’m writing to myself in this post as much as anyone else. I realized this was a problem in my life, and as my friends and I edge towards graduation, schedules fill up. We realized that if we wanted our friendships to matter, if we wanted the space we occupied in each other’s lives to be something more, then we needed to set a time each week to gather. The time each week that we have been gathering together and share what’s going on in our lives, to listen to each other, to bear one another’s burdens, these times have strengthened and encouraged us for the rest of the week.

Friends,

I leave you with challenge of considering how to deepen your friendships? Set aside specific time for people and seek ways to have real conversations that go deeper than the chicken patties in the cafeteria and your favorite contestant on The Voice. If you need ideas for deeper conversation topics, feel free to email me at neumannk@nyack.edu. I’d love to chat.

As Always, Dwell in The Mercy,

Sincerely,

-Kas

The Change of Fall and Us

Fall flutters all around us, the glamour of leaves fading into dusky yellows, rich oranges, and heavy scarlets. We open our eyes in wonder as Fall descends in a twilight of Harvest parties, drying corn stalks, and warm spiced lattes. I remember as a child losing my way in a corn maze, and along with that negative memory also despising Fall and its fury of harvest allergies. As an adult I have reformed my ways. Now, Fall evokes thoughts of growing cold but also warmth growing in gatherings of people I hold dear.

What does Fall mean to you?

Fall represents something else to me too.

Fall represents change. Fall is summer blurring itself into Winter. Sometimes we wake up to a couple green leaves fading into yellow outside our dorms. In those instances change is gradual. Sometimes we wake up to a world exploding in unforeseen colors of leaves and the forest behind our dorms blazes in rustic orange. The world changes in the speed it takes a freshman to run to the cafe for free, downtown pizza.

My point is that change can either come in gradual grace or it can overtake us in the snap of a moment.

My other point is that we, ourselves, our humanity, are all shifting and changing–all of us are in the process of change. This is a lesson I’ve been carrying around in my pocket through the ebb and flow of days. My thoughts have been moving over this idea a great deal lately, perhaps it’s because I’m student teaching right now and that experience is a constant process of change, as I’m trying to figure out how to better myself as a teacher and professional. The desire for change is there, but the heaviness in the lesson comes with a realization that change is a process, and often the timing of that change is out of our control. Do you ever fall asleep in your dorm wondering, “When, Lord, when? When will I be better at this or that? When will I have an easier time passing Science class or English class? When will I be able to fully live my calling? When will I be able to share You without fear? When will I change enough for You to use me?”

Dear, dear friends. We desire change, but we often want to control the timing and lobby for instant results. Dear friends, real lasting change in our persons, in the guts of our souls, only comes after a process. The timing of that process is up to Christ. Don’t misunderstand me, please. We need to put in the time and effort if we want to see personal growth in our lives. However, we need to allow time for the process, learning in all circumstances, allowing the Word to enter within and transform. We surrender to that idea; somewhere along the journey the brilliance happens. You find your character having been strengthened by what the Lord hath wrought. You find yourself passing Science or English class, because you put the time in to study and get tutored. You find yourself sharing your faith after you almost lost yours and understand the ache of living without it. You find yourself living your calling after nights filled with worry and void of sleep when you cried out to God, but also you learned how to trust God during those nights. Through process does the Holy Spirit breathe over us, working to strengthen our frailties. Friends, the craziness is that God is still using us during those processes. Do we doubt the ability of the God of the universe to use what is frail, human, and being renewed?

Friends, be not afraid of the process, for it is in the process that the workings of the Holy are revealed.

4 Things Student Teaching Really Teaches You

Friends,

I must apologize (but not really). I was pouring over titles of my recent blogs, and I had to smile a little. Most of them have been completely and totally about my experience with student teaching. Writers often write from what they know–do not we all know this to be true? The next couple months of blogs will most likely be a chronicle of this wild and new experience of student teaching. Stay tuned for the ride.

Right now, we’re on week two and my cooperating teacher has been easing me into teaching, asking me to teach parts of periods. He inspires me everyday I wander into his class with how he manages to offer kindness to the kids and high expectations in the same hand.  On Friday he asked if I’d like to teach an entire period the following week. Monday morning found me standing in front of a bunch of eighth graders armed with an artsy Powerpoint and Common Core strategies–the brave and wildness of a Monday.

It’s evening now, and I’m sitting at my computer as I write, gathering together all the scraps of today. Life right now may be teaching, but I’m realizing that successful teaching is more about learning than anything else. Let me explain some of these lessons:

  1. Learning to Reflect: The first period I taught my pacing was off. We had extra time in the period…which is a serious problem when you have twenty middle school students in an enclosed space. I knew there was an issue, so I had to reflect and fix the issue promptly for the next period.
  2. Learning to Take Criticism: Student teaching is funny. You go through these extremes of feeling like you own the world, because of course you’re a senior at college and know what you’re doing? Then you stand in front of a group of fourteen year olds and forget how to pronounce your name. You might think you’re a big shot, but you’re not. You have to learn to take the criticism and take it well.
  3. Learning Organization: I foolishly walked into student teaching without a folder to my name. Yes. I admit this. A trip to the store promptly remedied that situation.
  4. Learning from Students: A quote I ran across in one of my writing classes explains this, “‘Always assume,’’”, wrote Leo Strauss, to the teacher “that there is one silent student in your class who is by far superior to you in head and in heart.”-M. Shaugnessy. This is entirely true. I am shocked by the “head” and “heart” of many of these eighth graders.

These are some of the many lessons I’m learning through student teaching. Stay tuned for more of the brave and wild, my friends.

why choose nyack college school of education

Student Teaching: Day One

I’m wandering down the street in the morning half-light with a street address, little idea of where I’m going, but I’m carrying a great confidence that I’ll find this house with the “green trim”. I’m walking to meet the woman I’m carpooling with to student teaching. I’ve only had a phone conversation with this woman, but she has no idea that she is an answer to prayer for a ride to my placement. A church dear to my heart, comes into view. Its rust colored bricks have welcomed me many times. The bells ring in the steady certainty of the morning. “Laughing” I still don’t know where I’m going–

Maybe I do.

I meet my ride, and realize that we will get along swimmingly. We drive the ten minutes listening to the alternative rock/indie station and trade stories about international adventures. I make a friend.

We arrive, enter the school. We pass through the endless hallways that have been swept and scrubbed spotless to meet the beginning of the school year. The scent of chlorine signals that the middle school pool is nearby. I go back for a moment to the familiarity of nostalgia, to my days on the swim team. A reminder of that world calms me.

Suddenly I’m outside my classroom. There are so many people to meet. There’s the Italian teacher to my right, the assistant principal, and a flurry of faces that I try remember along with their names. This is it. This is it.

The first period is a lot of introduction. Who are the teachers? Who are the students we’ll be teaching? I scan the room, trying to unpack the history of the entire eighth grade with their freckled faces and perhaps a bit overly gelled hair. My mom gave me some advice about this moment. She told me to make seating charts and learn names. My mother is a wise woman–I follow her advice. I spend the next few periods learning names, and my supervising teacher invites me to introduce myself to each class. I tell them I’m their student teacher from Indiana. Indiana is known for basketball and I stand there in three inch heels, explaining that in spite of my incredible height…that I possess no incredible skills in basketball. The kids think that’s funny, even though it’s the first day of school and they’re still in “cool” mode. Later they refer to me as “the basketball player”. I grin, and suddenly the bell is ringing. The entire eighth grade rushes into the hallway in a mess of notebooks, blue backpacks, and pencil cases–the anxiety and happiness of thirteen-year old’s. I smile again. My first day of student teaching has been completed.

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