Sara Luehring is a senior at Ohio University, majoring in special education. Sara is completing a professional internship at a local school in Western Australia through the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST).
I taught my students how to carve a jack-o-lantern last week. Not only were they enraptured by the entire process, but there were other teachers and staff members coming in to have a look at what it’s like to carve a pumpkin — something so simple to me, yet foreign to them. That happens a lot here, sometimes in the reverse. Secretly, I had never gone through the full process of carving a pumpkin from start to finish without someone else’s (read: my dad) assistance. But I’ve become a pro at what I like to call ‘fake it ’til you make it’.
I just had a conversation with one of my students about this concept. As a special educator, I’m passionate about instilling confidence in my students and tell them all the time to have faith in what they know/can do. I was talking with one of my year nines, and she mentioned that she would like to be a hairdresser when she grows up, but that she didn’t think she could do it. I told her of course you can, sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it a little bit. She was shocked and told me, “Miss…but isn’t that cheating?” I laughed and thought about it, and explained to her that it may be in some situations, but other times it’s good to just give things a go even if you aren’t entirely confident, and learn from your mistakes. I talked about how sometimes before teaching a lesson, I don’t feel like I know the content or my lesson plan well enough to deliver it, but I don’t just give up, I do it anyways as best as I can for those students, and usually things turn out well.
I’ve been challenged often in my teaching experience in Australia; not necessarily entirely because I’m in another country with their own system and culture, but because I am teaching different demographics and subjects than I am used to. I decided early on that it was important to embrace these challenges because in the end it will only make me a stronger teacher. Guess what? It has!
I have learned awesome things about erosion, solar power, punctuation, grammar, gardening, multiplication tricks, and more. I have also learned why one of my students can’t stay awake at school because he stays up past midnight to see his dad get off work, and how another student’s two year old sister has a bright pink cast on her leg from falling off a chair, and yet another student got a cool new lego toy and do I want to see it?
I’m a self-proclaimed nerd, with a love for learning. My favorite thing to learn about is people. Teaching here has opened up that possibility to learn about so many more people, which helps me guide my lessons around what they are interested in, making things so much more fun. A student told me recently that I would be a good preschool teacher because I like to make learning fun. I thanked her, but told her there were plenty of preschool teachers making school fun, but that it shouldn’t stop there, which is one reason why I’d love to teach high school.
I just finished teaching a science unit about rocks. Seriously, rocks? Bill Nye even had a hard time making rocks sound cool. Okay, no he was pretty good at it, but I had to dig deep (ha! no pun intended…) to make these lessons engaging for my students. So, I found a rock and crafted a whole story about ‘Lionel the limestone’, my new pet. I tasked my students with searching the school for some friends for Lionel. The only catch was that they all needed to have different properties, and we had to describe them because Lionel didn’t have very good senses. What an awesome opportunity to talk about diversity! Walking around the school, my students talked about how it’s nice to have friends who are all different in their own ways, and no one quality is better than the other. “Just like you, Miss L,” they told me.”We still like you even though you’re different from us!”
Score. Who knew when I set out to teach about the properties of rocks that we would end up touching on things like diversity and acceptance? Not this girl. That’s the beauty of teaching, no matter where you are. I’m finding that, especially in a new location, you can’t just wait until you feel 100 percent ready. Just like in life: do some preparation, have some faith, and when in doubt, fake it until you make it.