If You Can’t Do, Do You Really Teach?
Name: Ashley Breetzke
Class Standing: Senior
Major: Visual Arts Education
Interviewed by: Adriana Santana
What are you currently doing right now for your career?
I am currently allowed to teach in a classroom with a professional teacher, so I’m trying out everything I’ve learned as well as getting immediate feedback. I’m also getting a mentorship, so whenever I’m not teaching I’m either receiving feedback or watching a professional in their field. I believe each of them have been there for seven years so I’m surrounded by expertise constantly.
Is teaching something you definitely want to do or is there something else with the visual art education that has you interested?
No, I want to be a teacher. My goal eventually is to become an art professor at a university, but I want to teach younger kids first, and learn the importance of art education. Also be hands-on, and become a great teacher, because I believe professors are experts in their field but not necessarily expert teachers.
So what made you decide to be a teacher?
I’m not entirely sure, but I think the culminating moment was my freshmen year. That’s when I heard in a sermon that you should pick a career that your knew that God outfitted you to do, but you knew you couldn’t do it without God. So I knew this was a career for me, it’s been proven to me daily. It’s a career that I have an aptitude for, but it doesn’t really meet its full fruition without God’s hand.
How long have you been teaching and helping out at the schools you’re working at, and what schools exactly do you work at?
I’ve been working since September, so it’s been two months. Mornings I’m at Berrien Springs Middle School, and in the afternoon I’m at Berrien Springs High School.
Has it been a rewarding job so far?
Yes, it’s definitely hard, but it gives me a lot of respect for the people who have invested so much into me growing, and my parents. I went to private school my whole life, and I have a lot more respect for what everyone is doing in that job as well as the passion they have. Again, it’s a really hard career, but at the same time since we love it so much and we’re so invested it has a reward that I think surpasses a lot of jobs. Mainly because of how much you pour into it mainly the individuals, because their success is your success and every victory is huge. It has personal rewards as well, since you want to win them over personally. So when a kid comes in and you notice they have glasses and you see their excitement because now they can see the board, it’s a personal victory. You see them ready and wanting to learn.
What is the most difficult part about teaching.
I think the broad term I would use is individualization, which breaks down in certain areas, but each kid is an individual. It’s not just a general class, everyone is unique; for example, when you’re disciplining one kid, what may work for one may not work for the other. So trying to reach all of them within a 45 minute period is very tricky.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the job?
It’s funny every day. What stands out is kind of an ongoing thing, but we have these rolling chairs in the middle (of the classroom) where some kid falls out at least once a week. They honestly can’t help it; they’ll get so excited about something, or they’ll get really happy and they just fall out. Which to me is hilarious every time it happens, because they really can’t control it and it’s happened many times.
Okay so who’s better, the middle schoolers or the high schoolers?
I think the middle school is so much more challenging, because you have to really have a passion for it since these kids are going through so many changes. Puberty of course is a big one, but they’re becoming more independent and it’s really hard for them. So you have to invest more time into them, which can be more rewarding since you have to put in more effort. However, high schoolers are kind of already who they are so you can focus more on the content, and really improving on the person they already are. I can’t choose though, they both have their best aspects.
Do you have a most memorable moment so far?
I think I have more memorable kids rather than moments, because it’s really an investment process. They also sometimes don’t know how to ask for help or don’t want to, and that’s usually where I step in to help, but when you step in you have to do it in a way where you don’t hurt their pride. You don’t want to call them out so you have to find a respectful way to do that.
Have you had a moment where you’ve clashed with a kid while you were disciplining them, and how did you handle that?
Okay so I’m white and this little kid was black, and I’m only saying this because it’s important to the story. She wanted to do something that her regular teacher said no one could do, which was make up work where they had fallen behind because they just didn’t have the time. So when she asked me if she could make it up, I told her she could not. She threw a fit, and when I called her over to talk to her about it privately she said it was because she was black—that if a white kid had asked I would’ve let them do it—and this is in third grade. I was shocked and said, “Well, it’s not just you, I said no to these kids as well and they were white, black and Hispanic.” She didn’t say anything and walked away but it stuck with me because that was the first time someone insinuated me as being racist. I praised God though—luckily I had said no to those other kids as well because I don’t know what I would’ve done if it was just her. Also throughout the whole exchange I had to remind myself to not take it personally, and stay calm—which worked out because she later came back and asked for my help.
Are you going to be working at the two schools next semester?
No. I’ll be done with all my classes by December, and then I’ll be applying to graduate school so who knows when this school thing will be over with.