Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wartburg West Post-Reflection

Looking at this opportunity, now thirteen weeks into it and almost finished, I think more than anything I looked at this opportunity to come out to Wartburg West as an adventure where I would have to be on my own. I have grown up in a very sheltered home and spent a few summers at home before heading out to Montana last summer with a group of three other individuals. But when I look at the Wartburg West program, I see opportunity, opportunity, and more opportunity. An opportunity to grow, an opportunity to flourish in a new setting, and an opportunity to continue to develop as an individual that will successfully add to the culture and world around him. I think, looking back at it, that this type of experience was something that I yearned for and was looking forward to having ever since I started at Wartburg. I wanted some type of experience that would give me the opportunities to grow and I had a hunch that Wartburg West would allow me to do this – so here I am. Looking at the experience that I have had here, I must say that this is one of the best, most beneficial, and overall exciting opportunities that I have ever taken advantage of in my short life.

This experience has been new for me, because I have honestly never worked harder, been more overwhelmed, and still had a lot of fun all at the same time. Student teaching, well that and coaching and everything else that goes with student teaching, has been so busy. I feel, and have felt, throughout the entire experience, that I did not even have time to work out, hang out with friends, or even cook some nights. That experience was new for me, because before I have always had a very structured and ordered life, which this was, it was just more me directed instead of schedule for me. I can eat when I want, go to sleep when I want, and get home from school when I want – I am not under the Mensa hours on campus or have another meeting to get to when I get back to my dorm room. My schedule was completely and totally dictated by me, which was a new experience for me. Also living in the city has been a really new experience. I have lived close to and in near proximity for quite some time, but nothing like living off two of the main streets in Denver. There has been or is a siren ever thirty minutes on the weekends and probably every hour during the week. Not to say this is a bad thing, but it did take some adjusting to throughout the first few weeks. In addition, when I look for a community to live in later in life I will make sure to stay away from major streets and intersections. The noise is a little unbearable at times and I am glad that I can run away to coffee shops, friend’s houses, or other locations in Denver that are much quieter.

As I close out this semester, I fear that I have not learned enough through my student teaching experience. I feel that I have learned a lot of information about classroom management, teaching, lesson planning, unit planning, and overall being a teacher, but somewhere it does not seem like enough. I feel like I have only scratched the surface into what teaching really is. Maybe that is the feeling that you are supposed to have as you close out student teaching, because a lot of information and comfort comes from actually doing it yourself and on your own during the first three years of teaching. However, I still struggle with the fact that I am honestly scared for my first year of teaching. I want to do a good job and I feel like I have learned a lot; however, how do I prepare for my first year in a constructive way in which I can take that fear and harness it into an energy and a desire to do the best I can during that time of growth and survival?

As I came into this experience I had many preconceived notions and ideas about urban life, everything from the noise to the homeless population. I think now that I have truly lived, interacted in, played in, and spent time in the city that I can really feel somewhat educated on the topics that present issues to the masses. I do not completely understand all the issues; however, I do feel that I have grown in my understanding and knowledge of some of the topics. That being said, it has been nice to see the interns and their presentations over the community projects that they have been involved with and to actually be forced out into the community to experience and understand the environment around me. I have really enjoyed being able to get out, whether that is with alumni or for class, and really experience everything that Denver has to offer – from the professional sporting events to the artistic events and to the really fun and interesting neighborhoods. It has been an urban experience where I have grown and began to understand some of the tough issues, like homelessness, affordable housing, and water that face a large metropolis.

My goal before coming out here was to have a contract signed and read to go for the fall before I left on April 10th. Well, let’s just say that has not happened yet, although the possibility is still there it is unlikely). What I have realized very quickly is that school districts do not start hiring or really actively seeking positions until a little later in the spring than I would have liked. Nevertheless, I have had a few nibbles and a few positive comments from school districts in the Denver area about possible jobs. I have not signed on the dotted line; however, I have gotten the feeling that I will find a job. As one school administrator said, “You will find a job Randon, the only question is if you want it to be with us.” So I will wait for someone to offer me an official interview and then go from there. That is all I can ask for right now, but I have resolved that I do want to pull the Wartburg West move and come back to Colorado and Denver in particular. This is an awesome place, and I knew that before, but honestly I love it out here and plan on coming back to teach – even if that means subbing for a year and then finding a job. Colorado is calling my name and so here I come later this fall.

When I came out to Colorado I was looking forward to living in a building near other people doing the same exact thing. In fact, I was looking forward to knowing someone else in the really big city of Denver. So living in this community has been awesome. I have been able to get to know some other people really well and form closer relationships with others. My roommate and I have gotten along just fine throughout the experience and I look forward to continuing on the relationships that I have made here at Wartburg West over into May Term and the future.

Living in Denver for the past twelve and almost thirteen weeks has been an adventure at times (“wait, was I supposed to turn there” or “how much is it for the bus again”), a real experience in the classroom (and one that I could not have imagined or asked for anything better), and a true learning experience (cooking, cleaning, driving around a major city, dealing with work, play, school, and the balance of everything in between). This Wartburg West experience has been beyond everything else an experience that has changed my life. I have mentioned how hard I have, and will continue for the rest of the semester, to work throughout student teaching, but living in this great city with nineteen other people has been a blast. I have formed closer relationships with some and formed new relationships with other students. It feels that this apartment has three unique families, the interns, social workers, and the education students, that all together form one really big family in which everyone is appreciated, challenged, and nurtured and I have really appreciated that feel for the last three months.

Wartburg West has challenged and nurtured me to lead a life of leadership and service as a spirited expression of my faith and learning, both in Iowa, here in Denver, and into the future wherever that may be. This experience has had a large impact on my beliefs, ideas, and future career plans, but I do not believe the full impact of this experience will be felt until months or even years after.

Overall, I feel that it would be appropriate to finish a post reflection with a few thank yous to the many people who have made this such a life changing experience – the support back at Wartburg to make an experience like this happen, the alumni network here in Denver that constantly takes new students under their wing every three months, the Bocks for everything they did to make this dream a reality, my cooperating teachers for teaching me more now than I have ever learned before (I will not know the depth of my experience for many years to come), my friends (both back in the Midwest and here in Denver) and family (you know who you are) for supporting me during these fourteen weeks away (and for visiting me during it), and finally to my Lord for constantly teaching, challenging, and walking beside me throughout this entire experience. Without all of you this experience would not have been possible or as rewarding as it has been. Thank you very, very much.