Admist the trials and tribulations of assignments and exams, my second year at McGill provided me with the first opportunity for me to really gain a sense of what it meant to be a teacher. After attending numerous classes and completing multiple assignments, I was finally rewarded with the chance of going into Field Experience. This marked my first experience in a professional environment, where responsibilties and standards were to be fulfilled as mature educators, not university students. Through the events in the short-lived field experience, I was able to realize and change in three crucial aspects – professionalism, adaptability, and practicality.Having grown used to the academic schedule of university students, it was admittedly difficult in having to transition my attitude from a lazy sophmore to a professional educator. For my first field experience, I was assigned to James Lyng High School – an alternative high school that provides education towards a financially difficult group of children. This particular school was located within a 40 minute metro ride distance, as a result forcing me to wake up at 6 in the morning every day just to get to school on time. This demand was conducive to the reshaping of my understanding of teaching. Prior to this field experience, I had simply thought of teachers as going in school at a casual time, easily teaching materials they are skilled at. In other words, I thought of teaching as a walk in the park. It was only after waiting through traffic and forcing my way into crowded buses that I realized that teachers are faced with a high professional demand. This notion was reinforced the hard way after I was dropped from my initial field experience due to a failure to attend a professional seminar. It was only through a brutal abrupt withdrawal that I understood exactly how strict and expected a sense of professionalism was towards teachers. Now, I am finally beginning to understand exactly what it means to be a professional educator.
Another component of my professional identity that was transformed is adaptability. By adaptability, I am referring to the ability to switch between a casual and professional attitude when undergoing constant student and colleague interactions. Throughout the day, teachers interact on a constant basis. Whether it is teaching or talking to a student, engaging in casual conversations with fellow teachers, or attending professional meetings, teachers swtich back and forth between a casual and professional demeanor. Of course, this is expected by teachers, as educators must retain professionalism throughout their teachings. However, it was only through the field experience that I really understood what this idea meant in the practical environment of the school. To illustrate, during the first week I was tasked with assisting a child who exhibited mild cases of learning disabilities. Throughout my interactions with him, often times I found out that we had common personal interests. This in turn unconsciously geared me to talk to the student in a more casual, easy tone. Of course, I am not saying that it is unprofessional to appraoch students in a causal manner. However, an educator must be able to distinguish when to be professional and when not to – something that I found rather hard to constantly keep up. In the future, I hope to improve on this aspect for a higher professional development.Practicality was yet another element that I developed in via field experience. Before entering a legitimate school environment, I did not have any experience in a professional environment. This in turn fostered rather fantasy-like depictions of how teaching would be like in real life. One example – it was in my genuine belief that lesson plans were always carried out as they have been planned on paper. Never was I so wrong. After sitting behind clasrooms and observing student-teacher interactions, I realized that the classroom is such a dynamic environment – the teacher never really knows how the class will take a turn. Students being the usual energetic and bustling bunch tend to enjoy doing what genuinely interests them, as opposed to following a set lesson plan doing set activities. At the same time, I am not undermining the effectiveness and praciticality a lesson plan provides. Rather, I realize now that it is as equally important to provide an interesting, engaging educative process in which all students can authentically feel joy from learning. After all, it is only through joy in which students genuinely learn.
Overall, my first field experience provided various insights into the authentic educative process. While I learned many new things, I was able to professionally develop in three main aspects – professionalism, adaptability, as well as practicality.