Playing School (or why I still want to be a teacher) is guest post written by Julianne Frascella. Julianne is currently a 12th grade student in my AP Literature class at Robbinsville High School (NJ). She will be attending The College of New Jersey in September 2017.
It was like we were playing school.
Except, this was not supposed to be a game.
Wearing old glasses with the lenses popped out and clacking about in my mom’s oversized black high heels, I asserted myself as the head teacher. A pointer with the white gloved finger at the tip, in hand, I was in charge and my classroom was an orderly hierarchy.
One person played teacher.
In my classroom, I had a diverse array of students, consisting of teddies, American Girl dolls, Barbies, Power Rangers, and my little brother.
Arranged one behind the other in columns of four, my class of twelve “students” arrived each day, sitting neatly with their legs tucked under their makeshift cardboard desks. Strips of construction paper glued to the tops, printed with their first and last names in Sharpie, the letters stretching to reach the dotted lines.
The teacher’s desk (which magically transformed into a coffee table when “school” let out) was shoved in the corner, the swivel sofa behind it imitated the staple teacher’s spinny chair. My Barbie laptop plopped upon it, I clacked my fingers against the keys, typing very professional emails to the principal.
Each day, I’d call attendance, logging checks and x’s in my teacher’s book (a stack of white printer paper with three-staples down the side and grid lines that my mom sketched on for me in black pen did the trick).
The whiteboard, the one my dad reluctantly nailed to the wall, displayed the date in the top right corner and the spotlighted Morning Message, exuded cheerfulness in its rainbow letters.
My expectations of a structured classroom developed from the make- believe school in my playroom at home. However, my anticipations were completely defied as I entered the first grade. For most seven-year olds, their largest source of stress stems from a coloring mishap or their word sorting homework.
First grade was a rough year.
My school day often began with hyperventilating at the bus stop and concluded with a bellyache complaint and a nurse visit.
While I should have been enjoying the thrills of the first grade, I was instead inundated with anxiety- a consequence of my classroom environment, a mere discrepancy of my idealistic imaginary classroom.
Our class recycled through at least three teachers over the course of that year, with random substitutes scattered in between. They varied from apathetic to dictatorial, with few falling in between the extremes. And the majority of which, did not have the competence to organize our collapsed classroom.
They’d fumble through the teacher’s desk at the front of the class, which was cluttered with worksheets, yet to be graded and new copies, strewn throughout. They’d quickly scribble their name on the whiteboard upon their arrival, leaving the board bare and dreary otherwise. The date in the corner never seemed to switch, except when it was half erased and fading off.
It was November 3rd for three weeks.
Each day, I’d peek in my classroom to see who was playing teacher. Who would be squinting at the teacher’s book awkwardly trying to sound out our names for attendance? Who would be hollering to quiet down, overwhelmed by the lack of routine and order?
Where is the attendance book? How long do you usually read for? Where do you keep the markers? What are you learning in science?
Different students would jump to their feet arguing whether math or social studies came first on the schedule and whether we left off on chapter three or thirteen in the class novel.
We had twenty- three teachers leading our class, the better of which seemed to be under the age of 8.
And me, praying for an orderly routine, would tremble in my desk, completely distraught by the disorder I was immersed in.
School wasn’t supposed to be a game of role play, yet it had become just that. Wilting in my chair, amidst the mayhem of the classroom, my love for school along with my idealized vision of a harmonized school environment had been tarnished.
I now understand that being a real teacher will differ from my childhood fantasies. Nevertheless, I aspire to carry my childhood passion for teaching throughout my career.
Why I Still Want to be a Teacher
Offer a Comfortable Place to Learn
The school environment should offer children a consistent routine and a comfortable atmosphere. There is no need to impose extra anxiety on a child by having unexpected changes and irregularities. I want to ensure that my students feel prepared and excited for school each day, not fearful.
Instill Respect as the Foundation of a Child’s Education
Realistically, students will not need to retain the details of American Revolution or the life cycle of a worm. However, they will need well-founded social skills. Classmates can be as much of a hindrance as they are an asset to a child’s education, hence my desire to develop a socially synchronized community within the classroom.
Teachers have a significant hand in shaping the future of society (that’s a lot of power!). Therefore, one of my greatest values is to impart respect as the primacy of learning to instill it as a foundation of future society.
Cherish the Value of Individuality
It is easy to overlook the individual needs of every student with the overwhelming responsibilities of operating a classroom. The instruction of each child should be tailored to their identity, specifically their mannerisms, behaviors, and learning methods. Different tone, approach, and consequences should apply to every distinct child. I never want a child to feel inferior because a situation was not handled to compliment their personalities and abilities; emphasis on a child’s individuality may hold the key to their greatest growth potential.
Emphasize the Inevitability of Imperfections
Learning is infinite, except when hindered by the trepidation of failure.
Dreading to answer a question and fretting over the repulsive B grade has become the reality of the education system from a student’s perspective. As a teacher, I aspire to break this falsified stereotype of failure and rather highlight the value in making mistakes. In fact, I want my classroom to be a place where mistakes are encouraged and no longer seem a place of consistent performance, but instead a place of constant practice.
Despite, my early experiences in the public school system, I still believe in education.
As I am about to leave high school and embark on my future, I often think of myself as a timorous, little girl sitting in a first grade class. I know there are other girls out there just like me and I feel it is my responsibility to make school no longer a place of fear and chaos, but instead the start of an exciting journey.