Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Sage On Stage

Today at W, I met a former preschooler of mine, now attending kindergarten there. His mother said he was doing great and had been prepared for school well. Good.

Ms. D is such an organized and together teacher --- she mixes small groups, seatwork, circle, lecture and fun time very well --- that I often feel like I'm not exactly being an invaluble resource in the classroom. I've mentioned this to her, and she assures me that I am a help, but it's really mostly crowd control and a bit of prompting here and there during deskwork. So today, when she prepared to read a story, I stepped in and offered to read it instead. It was Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen (but a strangely abridged version from the one I know so well, having heard it on audiotape approximately a Brazilian times during naptime at VOA). The kids were supposed to read along with me, but I ended up reading it to them, which was fine. Then, to my surprise, Ms. D handed me a marker and asked me to lead the class in a question session to construct a word web based on owl concepts. It went all right, and she said I did very well.

But up there, behind the desk, and standing at the easel with a marker in my hand, pointing at kids who raised their hands, I felt it. That same feeling I've read about so often in anecdotal essays by teachers about their first years. I wasn't nervous, no. I didn't feel as if Ms. D were judging my performance or anything. Just... a strange feeling, like I didn't really belong up there. Like I said, I've read about this, and my teacher friends tell me the same thing: it's a common feeling, apparently. "I'm not a teacher! Can't they see that I look like an idiot up here with this silly marker in my hand, writing down things on a big paper?"

The really strange thing is that I should be feeling this way at all. I've been a preschool teacher for more than four years now, and a teacher's aide and so forth before that. I'm used to declaiming things in front of kids and asking questions and leading discussions. I guess it all changes when you're the cynosure in a "real" classroom.

I tells ya, it's an odd experience, being at the front of the class, looking at students looking back at you, and ostensibly directing things. And today it was just a bunch of 2nd graders tossing out concepts, with a lot of leeway as to "right" or "wrong" answers! Imagine teaching AP English or physics for the first time... Oh, the confidence one would have to fake! I shudder to think.

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