In the spring of 2014, Rob Stoddard interned as an assistant teacher at the Rensselaer County ARC in Troy, New York. This is his experience.
My internship was never very static. Class sizes ranged from four or five students to ten or eleven, so on any given day I needed to make a lesson that presumed I would have full attendance and catered to the needs of each individual student to some extent. Because the students all had different writing levels, I also needed to account for the students that were able to write at higher levels: each writing prompt needed to be both diverse and specific, which meant that the prompt needed to be easy enough for some students to comprehend and write, and also difficult enough that other students could let their creative minds explore and unpack further.
There were also several occasions in which I had to run the class by myself. A typical day was split up between my supervisor and I. I would take the first hour of class, and she would teach the last half. On days where it was all up to me, I was not only required to prepare twice the amount of prompts, but also maintain a focused learning environment, which was never an easy task to accomplish.
Early into my internship I described to the class what exactly I did in school, what I was learning, what my future dreams were, and what my area of study was. When the class learned that I had loved studying copious amounts Renaissance literature, specifically plays, they took a keen interest in creating a script as a class. I was absolutely astounded. The next class I brought in several writing prompts revolving around plot creation, narrative structure, and character creation. The students loved it. It was the most positive response I’d ever received from them. The feeling of knowing I inspired sincere, fun creativity is something I will never forget, and it gave me the reassurance that I was looking for. From that point on I knew I wanted to be a teacher.
This internship was an incredible opportunity. Since I eventually want to teach at the collegiate level, I specifically looked for teaching positions for my internship. When this position became available I immediately applied for it. Being an English major means knowing how to not only write effectively, but analyze effectively as well. This opportunity allowed me to teach my class how to write more proficiently, and it also taught them how to think a little more critically about what it was that they were writing about. I think the correlation between my college career and my professional aspirations are quite clear, and teaching the creative expressions class aided in solidifying my idea of what it takes to become a great teacher.
My advice for other English majors is to not limit yourself. Reach out to your faculty, and embrace their criticism. I would not be the writer I am today, nor would I have publication in the college’s journal, if I hadn’t embraced my instructors’ critiques on my writing. Sometimes it feels like they’re shooting you down or blowing off your ideas completely, but I promise that the comments are meant to make you better. If you take the comments too harshly I don’t think your writing will progress. Ask them to clarify their remarks; use the comments as a chance to learn something as opposed to just brushing them off.