Intern Identity Crisis

I’m an intern this year. A clueless grad student cast away from the university I just started to call home into the not-so-real world of unpaid labor. In those first few weeks of student teaching, all I felt was this overwhelming terror. My stomach would somersault as I stood near the edges of the classroom, watching my cooperating teacher work her magic. I felt my identity crisis setting in. How could I teach like all of those who have inspired me in the past, or even the teacher before me, with half a dozen years of experience tucked in her pocket? Those teachers were my opposite: older, wiser, weathered from all that the teaching profession throws at you. So what kind of teacher would I be?

I’ll get back to you when I have an answer.

I do, however, have an idea of who I am, who I will be as a teacher. I am passionate and excited, like only an intern can be. I am loud, for I can’t be anything else. I am trying. More than anything else, I am trying. And I’m enjoying every single day.

This is the beauty of my internship. I have been granted the time and space to figure out exactly who I want to be when I grow up. My cooperating teacher has welcomed me to invade her classroom and claim a bit of it as my own. For this I am grateful. How else was I supposed to learn to teach, or deal with the blank stares of students, or work with my worst fear- parents? A lot of my success as an intern stems from her. She is a resource to me that I use daily. It’s not that she has any answers, but together, we discuss those big teaching questions that seem to fade away as the years go on. From her I’ve learned that collaboration is a big aspect of identity in the classroom. I get ideas, notice things I wouldn’t have seen alone, and hear about all the great things she’s done over her years of experience.

I also firmly believe in the phrase “fake it till you make it.” I fake confidence a lot of days, and I pretend like everything is on the lesson plan, but as anyone who stands before a wolf pack of high school students knows, confidence and perfect planning are not always in great supply. A large part of who I am is based on my students; they are the only mirror I have when teaching, so sometimes a little faking goes a long way when it comes to their comfort, and therefore my comfort in the classroom.

My internship is a gift both for me and from me. Every day when I plug in the string lights behind my desk I start forming who I am as a teacher. I start wrangling the eccentricities that help, keep shedding the nerves that don’t. I’m getting there, so that one day in the not-so-far future, when students stare at me for the answers and there’s no one else to turn to, I’ll be able to teach them with confidence. By then, maybe I’ll have a better idea of who I am. But for right now, I’m happy just trying to figure it out.

~ Tori


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