Practicum Teaching

I have come out of a wild ride lasting a month or so, and while I won't unpack it all here, I will write down the most salient points for your benefit because I think it may help.  Nonetheless, it's a long one so get a coffee and settle in!

The context was that as a student-teacher, I was due to go on placement to get some experience while studying.  I was all set to go to a Steiner school, just to have a look and what that system was about, until my university canned that idea as the school didn't offer my major teaching area of Earth Science.  The closest school to me that did was a private school about 45 minutes away.  So I go there.

Now usually on practicum experience, I generally forget all spiritual aspects of myself, focussed solely on teaching, the new environment, the kids, the content I teach - these experiences are usually so intense that I forget about anything else.  At the end of a three week prac I will see my wise-woman kinesiologist who will balance me, talk about things and then I'm back to my "normal" life.

I am slowly integrating spiritual aspects though - one time at a public school I came home and vomited, not due to illness, but that I had absorbed so much negative energy (unconsciously) during the day that I threw up at home.  That particular episode was a wake-up call to my sensitivity and that I needed to meditate to centre myself, to be myself, rather than "be" other people's energy (so I would imagine a colour washing through my whole body and aura, then put myself in a golden bubble with an arrow pointing to the light for "foreign" energies to go).

Anyhow, I was due to go to this private school, and my first meeting is wonderful and the chart is like this:

Which, being focussed on the prac only, I didn't look this up - didn't need to:  

On the one hand, everyone seemed lovely, on the other, I was getting strong feelings of anxiety and inadequacy - rare feelings for me, so I was paying attention but didn't know what to do about these signals other than to completely cram the content I was to teach.  All I knew was that whatever resources I had in myself were not enough for this prac.  

In hindsight I knew I was in for a wild ride but didn't understand this feeling enough to articulate it or forewarn myself.  My last meditation night before the prac started, I saw myself floating in a boat on a river full of crocodiles, who had signs with one word on their backs: You. Have. Been. Here. Before.  And I knew to keep my hands inside the boat!

Once prac started I saw straight away that the standards at the school were much higher, the teachers worked much harder and there was more availability of materials for the students to learn with.  I was due to teach that week on the Wednesday and I really felt nervous, even though it seemed unreasonable - after all, I was here to learn, I had lesson plans done, my mentor was nice...surely everything would be ok?

The first indications that everything was not okay was after my first lesson - my mentor told me she would report me to the university if I did not pick up my game - all very polite of course.  Well total panic and stress and working hard - the next day she said my lessons were better, but was cold with me after that.  One meeting I sat in, I smelt urine so strong that I thought "OMG has someone peed on themselves?!  Surely everyone can smell this?"  But no, everyone politely attending to the meeting.  I wondered later if I could literally smell how "pissed off" my mentor was with me, even though she was always polite.  At this time I would smell things that if I asked, people said they couldn't smell.  Looking this up - clair-sense of smell - is called clairalience, and wondering if I'm developing it and sorta-kinda not sure if that is a superpower sexy enough to brag about!

So the first week I begin to not eat or sleep, solidly working and panicking.  A casual comes in to take my mentor's classes on Friday, and she had been the prac student last year, and I can see she is also afraid of my mentor and constantly tells the students to work or else the casual would get into trouble!  

Next Monday morning, first thing, I get pulled into a meeting that has the Head of Science, a Senior member of staff and my mentor, and told I was having lessons taken off me, that I was a plagiarist and that I was being reported to the university.  Of course I was in complete shock, having felt I had improved towards her standards in the week.  I remember the look of enjoyment on my mentor's face as she made the accusations I was to explain about to the others.  I realised I was dealing with a narcissist.

Aaaand the chart was as follows:

Now, I had learned about narcissism from media and from a friend who had their own pet narcissist, but I never thought I would get my own.  

My immediate reaction was to apologise and also point out inaccuracies in the accusations - I saw a report on me on the table, had a quick scan and said "there are lies in this report, here and here, I'm not signing this" so the others in the meeting decided they would observe my lessons for themselves. Everyone was shocked that I stood up for myself.  I was shocked that they clearly did not bother to observe my lessons before taking her word!  And in my experience, every mentor would have given me tips and pointers and debriefed lessons with me, which was not the case in my first week at this school.  I was also amazed at how smoothly I responded - despite the shock I was able to respond and have the Head and Senior decide to observe my lessons and give me a second chance.  Regarding my mentor, my thought process was "Wow I never thought I would get my own narcissist, looks like I'm going to have to CC everyone on every email to my dementor, and always have public conversations, and embrace the lesson observations because the more eyes on us the better!"

At the end of the day I managed to have a meeting with the Head and dementor about amending the report - which the dementor did, so I have before and after copies, which are completely different in tone and content. 

For the rest of the week she was nice as pie but I struggled with trusting her.  Nonetheless, the mask is so convincing that even though I had before/after reports, and a vivid memory of the pleasure with which she ambushed me, I still wondered if it was me that was the problem.  That is the hypnotic "glamour" of narcissists.

Some deep soul-searching and phone calls to friends until a Robert Redford movie entered my consciousness - Brubaker - which made a strong impression on me when I watched it in my teens.  It's the story of a new prison warden who enters his prison undercover as a prisoner, witnessing violence and corruption then attempts to clean it up.  *Spoiler alert* He gets fired due to politics but has done enough work that justice rolls on and the prison system is reformed due to political scandal and the governor is not re-elected.

I realised that I lived a Brubaker pattern in my life - I clicked on the Rhetoracle and got Taurus 23-24 A Mounted Indian With Scalp Locks and I realised a pattern in my life of entering a new institution or company as a junior, where I am exposed to either corruption or bad behaviour (sometimes because I trigger it with my arrogance), and after I leave there is some kind of retribution (not directly associated with me) where people are investigated.  There are at least two strong examples - one was in the army, where I changed units to become an instructor for the first time.  My seniors gave me no help and I was lucky that they were not as derogatory to me as the other instructors - who were humiliated in front of their students and the recruits also joined in the disrespect out of fear of the seniors.  I instructed two groups and the student feedback was very scathing, so an investigation was done.  I had left at this stage to work in the vault, and was told later that high-ranking people investigated the instructing department and found that I had done the best I could. Also that a sergeant in the department who was the most vicious to us was close to suicide.  I don't get pleasure from the "justice" but it is nice to have my name cleared.

The second strong example was at a mine I called the snake-pit.  What is not in that story if you click, was that the whole resource-geology department I was in got made redundant after I left.  I had been kicked out of that department to become part of a Business Improvement project, and when that ended, I told a Manager that if I go back to the geology department I would quit.  He let me stay on to continue doing BI and then I quit when I hit all my targets (because there was no more reason to delay going back).  A little while later - redundancies and reshuffling.  The news about that was definitely a solace to the pain I felt for a long time after that experience.

There are other examples (many many), but let's move on.  In the case of my mentor, (Rhetoracle -> Pisces 13-14 A Lady In Fox Fur) - I wondered if the action meeting had moved a bad smell off me and onto her.  But other than being a narcissist, she was a great teacher right?  She wouldn't victimise a high school student right?  Her professionalism as a teacher actually made me rethink the value of narcissists in society.

The realisation that the Brubaker analogy was how I collected scalps, when each of those  experiences had been so painful and hard, was a shock.  I had thought these were battle scars and wounds.  I was even adrenalising from opening my computer to do lesson plans, so these were the beginnings of trauma!  I told the universe that I love myself too much now to endure these things anymore, and that collecting these scalps was not worth it.  Could I just finish my prac now?

Sure! replied the universe.  The rest of the week is "fine" with many people observing me and nobody thinking I am a terrible teacher (one person telling me I am a natural).  I myself am highly apprehensive and doing my best to try to play by whatever rules nobody is telling me about.

So at the end of the fortnight I see my kinesiologist, who tells me that my mentor had been my torturer while I was imprisoned in the Russian army in a past life as a Russian mathematician. This whole experience felt like torture.  Funnily enough, I would also go observe maths classes and the maths department were very welcoming to me (maths is one of my teaching areas).

So I was revisiting a past life and what mattered was my response.  Now it is end of term holidays, so I spend it doing lesson plans and working hard, with 5 days for my family to enjoy life and appreciate what I have.  I realise that my past lives (and for most of this life actually) in Taurus were about hard work and what the hell was I doing killing myself when I should be moving toward my Scorpio North Node of empowerment and relationships?!  Of course the most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves.  Why was I killing myself to please someone else?  Why was this experience taking time away from my kids and family?  I decide to balance myself by using a pendulum to find out which negative beliefs (from a numbered list - so I count numbers and the pendulum confirms or denies) I subconsciously held - that way I can think about them and clear them and so the situation just "is" without me subconsciously adding to it...it's all I can do.

First day back in term 2, and I am pulled into yet another meeting where I am told that instead of 7 lessons that week, I will only teach for a half-hour on Wednesday, because all the lesson plans I had emailed on the holidays were not good enough and I couldn't teach until I nailed the lesson plan. I was balanced, centred and happy, so I took it in my stride, charmed the Head of Science and told them that only the kids mattered and I was glad to learn what I could at the school.  I went home and did another negative belief clearing and meditation to balance myself.

That week I balanced myself morning and night, and basically stepped through different personas each day.  One day I had to rein in passive-aggressiveness ALL DAY because that was the persona that emerged after I cleared myself that morning.  It was like a version of the dragon energy but I was able to hold it down better.  Nonetheless a vibe is a vibe, and that particular day I saw my mentor upset and hurt that I was avoiding her (but we are all so polite!!)  I was actually surprised to see that, because I felt she had nothing but disdain for me!  I realised that narcissists get their power from the esteem that you or I might hold them in.  WE actually give away our power or self-respect to THEM. A narcissist may still have the power to ruin your efforts, which is the physical or material-world power they hold, but they also enjoy the emotional power we give them.  

The next day (passive-aggressive persona cleared) I saw her go after a high school student.  This student received an E for a test, and so I saw my mentor talk scathingly about her, mentioning that this student never chatted to teachers, never reponded in class, she was "plotting and scheming", she wrote crap in the test etc etc. Stuff that I did not see in my three weeks there, observing this student with this mentor! She was basically grooming the rest of the department (full of busy teachers who don't have time to look closer) for whatever punishment this teacher was going to dish out to the student.  The student wore two rings instead of the regulation one ring, so now she won't get her ring back until the end of term (WTF?! why not just the end of the day?!).  I realised that what I was seeing was how my mentor spoke about me to higher-ups in the school, conniving so that nobody would interfere in my treatment.  

I brought out my copy of the E-graded test (I was given a bunch to "mark") to show everyone and my mentor at the lunch table that the student just had some kind of learning difficulty as every answer in the test was the wrong way around - or the opposite - but we could clearly see the student had tried.  My mentor took the test away as it was the only copy in the school: the student had "lost" her copy of the test to avoid showing her parents, and the universe had erased the mentor's copies off her computer. "I can't wait to scan and email it to her mother - I would love to see her reaction!"  I was confused that it was by my hand that this kid was going to get into more trouble - it was the last thing I wanted for this kid. Until I realised that it was for my learning -  another element of corruption to see:

In a fee-paying school, parents work hard and pay money for their kids' education, so the kids are generally well-behaved and study due to pressure from the parents.  The teachers are under lot of pressure to get the students to perform, and the standards are high (not surprising that there were students taking medication for anxiety, but also teachers on stress-leave and with medical issues) so the teachers will protect their jobs with evidence that they have done everything they could to deliver the content.  More insidiously, teachers develops relationship with the parents which potentially works against their children.  Parents want to please the teachers at this posh school (the teachers are the authority figures that determine the pathway the student will take in the future), and the teacher "has done everything" (actually true) so what is left but to blame the student?  Parents who work hard and consider themselves "good people" doing their best can feel pressure to blame their child for being lazy or stupid or whatever.  

In fact, the appearance of laziness, in my experience with kids so far, is a lack of energy to engage with the material that terrifies them. In this student's case, I think she didn't like science and probably was terrified of this mentor.  It takes so much energy to repress feelings of fear or anxiety at school, that the student is therefore tired ("lazy") at home or avoids the subject. I would literally see some disruptive kids look anywhere else BUT their books if I sat next to them to help one-on-one - their eye movements showed me that they literally could not even look at the maths or science, they were so blocked psychologically.  I had to gently start working with their blocks by just getting them to look at the page first and copy something down from it - easy and non-threatening tasks, and yes, eventually we would have success in solving a problem together :) 

ANYWAY the insidiousness results in a kid seeing their parent buddy up with a teacher, both pointing fingers at the kid, who doesn't know any other way to "be" than themselves and can only see that all the authority figures in their life are "against" them.  Unfortunately a teenager doesn't know about projections and easily accepts the projections (the repressed "loser" side of a hardworking teacher or parent is pushed away from them onto the kid) so they think "oh I am a loser, oh I am bad, I think I'll just cut myself".  This school often emailed parents for any infraction, and I realised that the public school - with it's chair-throwing, swearing, snap-chatting and i-Phone-glued kids and defiant anti-authoritarian parents - was a better fit for me than this damaging private school.  At least the public-school system didn't put parents against their kids.  This private school experience was like a horror movie about conformism - a horror movie because Belonging is an essential part of our well-being.  From birth, we all need to feel we belong - it is a requirement for helping development in child-care centres.  Feeling like you cannot belong unless you are up to standard is damaging to the inner child.

One of the ways the students could get wiggle-room though, was if they had a learning difficulty or personal trouble they could get around the high standards and expectations.  One of the students I spoke to said there was a culture of trying to be a "charity case", using Student Support Officers and Special Consideration forms to signal that these students needed modified lessons and assessments. The focus on diversity in the school meant that the school could also plead charity for students not performing (that is, most students "should" go to university but this school is so "inclusive" that it is not realistic to expect that the school produces university students).  While of course there are absolutely cases where students needed extra support - it seems both the school and students have a way out of the pressure to perform, at odds with the dominant culture of academic performance.


Anyway back to the story, I arrived at the school the next Monday (balanced again), and was told my prac was terminated on the Friday and I should have been told by the university to spare the embarrassment of coming in and having the school explain it.  Go home.  You failed prac.  Conflicting explanations to my uni liaison officer, no real reason.

With planets like this:

I was very calm, polite and left absolutely happy that I didn't have to finish what would be the longest next two weeks of my life.  I did need to visit a shaman and a kinesiologist to continue the clearing and balancing, but there is no doubt that the previous balancing I did brought about this resolution faster.  No more torture.  I think my mentor would have failed me anyway, but at least I didn't have to waste time away from family. I will be redoing this prac at the public school - fine by me!

I thought about where I went "wrong" and I can honestly say my termination was NOT due to a lack of effort or brains on my part.  The only thing I can point to is the passive-aggressive persona.  This is my fault but I actually think it was meant to be - I cannot apologise for how I feel, and I did my absolute best to rein that monster in as much as I could.  If that was the reason for termination, I can only think that it was "meant to be".

Meanwhile I am lucky I am having this horrendous learning experience in middle-age (yes, I did wonder why I was changing careers late and as a junior again, but holy crap I am so glad I am dealing with it as an older person - my mentor would have destroyed me if I was younger).  I was also lucky to appreciate small kindnesses from other teachers on this prac, and while I also saw their and my flaws, the kindness that was freely given between us (and I did not share my issues with them either) continued my learning about compassion.  I was also extremely lucky to meet a new friend - a casual teacher who had a larger picture of the politics gained over four years of experience there.   She and I immediately connected over astrology and our misgivings about teaching as a career! I met her literally in my last days at that school. She and the receptionists were part of my healing, letting me know that "it wasn't me", and that there was something else going on at that school, for example that one of the departments regularly failed their prac students and bragged about it.  Something I know about receptionists - they see a lot of crap so they have to be "battle-axes" - but these ones were disguised angels who could only drop a kind word here and there in the brief time I had in front of them.   Truly, even if you feel you have nothing to give, the gift of a kind word is like a miracle to someone in pain, and shouldn't be underestimated.  I also had a realisation that my place was with my family and no way would I teach as a career - this job was not worth time away from my own kids.  My kids and I need each other.

So did this mentor represent a repressed side of myself I needed to look at?  Yes.  She represented deception which I needed to look at and embrace.  To teach, you need to have a mask for the students, a mask for your colleagues and a mask for the parents, so that people are reassured in your professionalism.  You can have a total breakdown in your life but society is relying on you to keep it together to help the students move forward in their studies.  The parents have to trust you and your colleagues need your support that they are not alone in this godforsaken job.  This prac was also about perception and how variable it is from person to person. There is always a grain of truth in every lie - it's what can make a lie believable.  I think about that kid in the movie Stand By Me who was blamed for stealing milk money - but the kid returned the milk money in a crisis of conscience and a teacher then spent it on new clothes, happily letting the kid with the bad name take the blame.  As an army colleague told me years ago, "if they are blaming all the problems of the department on one person, they're not having a good look at the department, are they?" Let's think - how much of that scapegoat did we actually help in creating?  

This goes back to the projection idea again, which I think is also relevant for discussing narcissists.  I know that when I challenged the perceptions in public about her report of me in the action meeting, then about the E-graded student (as well as at other times completely innocently due to me not knowing her agenda and just blurting half the time, that's me good ol' blah blah blah), I was challenging the persona she was creating to others, which triggered her threat response and so I was outta there.  For those of you dealing with narcissists, I ask you this - if you knew they were going to ruin your stuff anyway no matter how much you please them, how would you act instead?  You would probably act as if you had nothing to lose.  You would probably just be your authentic self, and start betting on yourself rather than pointlessly trying to win the esteem or love of a narcissist.  I think that was the lesson of my passive-aggressive persona.  I also think that the main struggle we have with narcissists is how strong they hold onto their perceptions.  One way out is to not bother convincing them of our own truths, or even to not bother ourselves with defending an identity we might cherish or avoid a projection we fear.  When a narcissist tries to convince yourself and everyone that you are a bad mother, well, why do you need to have the narcissist believe you are a good mother?  The lesson is about how much we care about what people think.  I can tell you that a narcissist absolutely depends on what people think of them, which is why so much work goes into manipulating perceptions, in order for them to ultimately wield power.  What cherished ideas about yourself does your narcissist attack?  Is your narcissist a reflection of your own insecurities?  My own insecurity was about whether I was a good enough teacher, one who could actually get kids to want to learn (because teaching and learning are two different things!) and to some extent I was afraid of the kids. By the end of my time there, I wasn't scared of the kids (scared more of the staff!) and I didn't much give a crap what she thought of me anyway (thank you passive-aggression).  "Winning" against a narcissist means not allowing them to influence your perspective about yourself, and creating boundaries against their projections, which can be hard won (pro-tip: try blocking calls and Facebook feeds from your narcissist).   If it is possible for you, you may even feel compassion for how blind they are to their own projections, and how this affects their growth.

Nonetheless, I did feel "crucified" by this experience - even though I wasn't.  I have always struggled to understand the story of Jesus' crucifixion because I have read that he didn't defend himself and "allowed" it to happen.  Similar to not understanding the idea of turning the other cheek.  Now I see that in the crucifixion story, there was no point fighting against all the projections put onto him by so many people, and knowing he was eternal (as we all are), his tormentors's own bad deeds would haunt them eventually.  What can you do in the face of overwhelming force?  Just love yourself, and know that you did the best you could.  Then go into the cave, make a positive meaning about it and move on, because rehashing the details of the horror story just keeps you on that cross.  I am now working on being proud of getting kicked out of a private school.

As for the Sabian Symbols - I actually found more resonance in my own Bekian symbols however the Sabian did have some resonance too - having both feels like speaking two languages!  And I feel at this time I am moving into my own symbols more and more - I highly recommend people do their own symbols for personal reflection.  The stand-out Sabian Symbols were the North Node in Virgo 3-4 A Chocolate Child Playing With Whites in how I felt (like I was immersed in a culture different to me, playing at being a teacher, and it would be time to go home soon), the Lady in Fox Fur made an appearance during this time, Neptune and Chiron traversing the relevant Piscean symbols, Pluto on Capricorn 19-20 A Hidden Choir Singing which was relevant because I was definitely becoming more sensitive and in-tune during this experience.  The final Earth during termination of Scorpio 10-11 A Drowning Man Rescued was how I felt when the torture was finished.  

There is more, but for now I need more time to decompress and correlate symbols, events and energies :)

So just to reiterate the lessons of three weeks at that school:

  • We are all vulnerable to projections, kids especially.  Kids usually are not able to process or understand the constant projections we all have to navigate in our society, and it is no accident that identity issues are at the forefront of the growing brains of teenagers.  There should be a compulsory course in high schools called Projections 101.
  • Narcissists need power given to them (esteem), and a power position to abuse.  I wonder if narcissists are attracted to the prestige of private schools?  
  • What seems to be a pattern of wounds and battlescars was actually my superpower, and was how I collected scalps.  This was a major revelation about karmic justice, for me.  In this instance, my test was about my response.  Even better, I forgive and let go of my mentor from my daily thoughts (not easy by myself, did pay the cash money to see a shaman and a kinesiologist, not gonna lie).
  • I pushed the limits of my own emotional and spiritual abilities.  I am now doing another course with my wise-woman to learn more tricks to survive the next prac.  In this private-school prac, at one point I did feel the rise of nausea again (after attack by the mentor) due to absorbing and generating negative emotions - I recognised this feeling from my last prac-vomit, and immediately meditated in-class to avoid chundering on the kids.   Minutes later I released a quiet burp, and celebrated the lack of follow-through.  Hey, you gotta look for the positives wherever you find them!!

In my next healing I hope to learn more about participating with joy in the sorrows of the world - at least for my own mental health!


And so I leave you with this beautiful poem by Hafiz:


The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.




Home › Karma Review › Practicum Teaching Top of page

Astronavigator

Astronavigator