Name: Paul Balik
Site: Philadelphia (Germantown Friends School)
School attending: Brandeis University
Returning teacher? New Teacher
Class(es) teaching: 8th Grade Social Studies, Writing through Literature
Part of me is nervous, part of me is very excited, and part of me is even a little scared at the thought of heading out to Philadelphia to spend my summer teaching eighth-graders. I’ve spent the past three weeks catching up on sleep, spending time with friends and family, reading, vegetating, and enjoying my favorite city, my home-town, Chicago. Yesterday I sat at Wrigley Field watching the Cubs lose horribly and I suppose this is a sign that there are bigger and better things for me to be doing outside of Chicago this summer. Although I will certainly miss my city, my friends, and my family, I am inspired by the prospect of making a real impact on children’s lives. I studied the sociology of education this past semester and, also, as a product of the Chicago Public Schools myself, I have at least a surface-level grasp of the vast inequalities that run through our country’s systems of public education. Even on this most surface level, these inequalities are both striking and motivating.My experience with teaching is quite minimal. I was a writing tutor throughout high school and that’s about it. Thus, the idea of leading a class full of teenagers whose brains are eager for stimulation is a little nerve-racking. How will I perform? What will I do? What will they do? How will I fill the time? Will I talk too much? Will I not have enough to say? Will I be able to think of creative, exciting lesson-plans? After spending a year in college, is my own knowledge a little too out there for the demands of the curriculum? Do I still remember what I should know about U.S. history, English, social studies, etc.? And so on, and so on, and so on.
Yet while such insecurities may float somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that they are products of my mind more than anything else. I can’t wait to really buckle down, to start learning, and to start planning so that I can walk in on that first day of class and be ready to provide my students with the stimulation, the knowledge, the thinking skills, and the excitement that they both need and deserve.