I can’t exaggerate how tired I got of trying to explain PEL to folks who asked me over the last few months what I was going to be up to next. For one thing, I can’t stand answering the same question over and over again – Hah! I bet your heart just skipped a beat reading that, considering I’m in this program to become a teacher, after all. No worries – I just mean I can’t stand giving the same mundane or coldly factual type of answers over and over again, like, “yes, I did get a haircut.” In this case the question I found myself answering on repeat not only got to me because of the frequency with which I was asked it, but also because, to be honest, I didn’t really know how to answer.
I’ve heard friends who started grad school this Fall remark that the difference in communication and preparation they received going into their programs as compared to undergrad was astounding, and PEL (despite being a Grad School alternative), it turns out, is of a similar nature. But no big deal! I’m only partially using this as a *cough cough* device for the heads of the program. Really, I’m just commenting on how hard it was to explain to friends and family what my program was going to be like because, in truth, I didn’t know too well myself. And, like I said, that got tiring.
The difference now, luckily, is that I haven’t left campus since Labor Day, so I haven’t seen anyone not from CSW – and haven’t had to explain PEL to a single person. Just kidding (??) No, the real difference now is that I’ve been steeped in the PEL schedule and curriculum, and any fears I may have had that we were just going to be free labor – any difficulties in trying to surmise just what we were going to do for a year – are vanished. (“Get on with it already! Did anyone ever teach you to write without a million tangents and convoluted branches of thought, or terrible displays of dry humor??) FINE!
I’m pleased to say that our schedule here at CSW is varied and dynamic; I don’t think any of us, least of all myself, would be happy with mundane routine. We can wait until we actually get a job for that (definitely a joke; a dynamic and varied routine/roles is one of the main reasons I’m interested in teaching!) So while one day we might have a workshop with an educator from a local university or professional development organization, another day we work within our cohort and with our mentors to analyze and discuss readings on various topics like Progressive Education (duh), Privilege in the Classroom, and so on. Most days, we co-teach a class with our mentors, and on another day of the week, we get to formally observe a teacher’s class of our choosing with the guidance of our mentor, and then debrief the experience.
Outside of the school day, we’ve had a couple projects to work on. The first was an assignment to design a Student Learning Self-Portrait. The idea here was to come up with a template or idea for a portfolio or figurative self-portrait that students could create to document and reflect on their learning. This Self-Portrait would also serve as a resource for faculty and administrators to be more well-informed in their dealings with students. The four of us showed a unique variance in our ideas for this project, but in completing it we all learned about the importance of Evidence, Reflection, and Collaboration for student learning, as well as some of the effects of metacognition.
Currently, we’re just starting to work on our second and final project, which is to design, in pairs, a curriculum for an Integrated Studies class. So far, Emma and myself have gotten wrapped up in lofty and abstract ideas about culture, identity development, mental health, and social media. Kyle and Caleb, on the other hand, seem to be on the road to artfully researching the possibilities of a class that combines Art and Science. I can’t wait to see what we all come up with.
However assuaging and informative the last few weeks may have been only adds to how shocking and odd the idea is of moving on to a new school in just a few weeks. To know that we’re in for the same routine we just went through another 3 times is exhausting, but that is far outweighed by how exciting the prospects of new routines, new assignments, new roles, and new dining halls are. Here we come!
I hope you’ve made it to the end of this blogpost unscathed, and haven’t caught self-deprecation like a disease nor used up your lifetime tolerance for self-referential dry humor. But more than anything, I hope that those of you reading this whom I haven’t met yet don’t establish expectations for what I’m actually like based off of this post. I promise I’m not actually expressive, outgoing, or funny, nor do I use exclamation marks when I speak in person. Just fair warning. (But I do use parentheses in person. A lot.)