I have lots of thoughts occupying my mind, and therefore a lot to write about, but to avoid a rant or a boring list, I guess I’ll just choose one little nugget. I am comfortably seated in bed with my almost 5 year old who is watching Star Wars, I have electrodes massaging my jacked up neck and back, and a nice glass of water. So here, blog. I will placate you (my blog and I are officially back together.)
This school year I’ve made a few… revelations… about myself as a teacher (oops – I mean “professional.” Which is funny if you’ve ever seen me teach. Oops. “Teach.”) and that maybe, just maybe, I know what I’m doing. Finally. A tiny bit of confidence. Which, I might mention, can be dashed at any moment when a kid does something I don’t quite know how to handle. Luckily, I’ve learned to make a weird face at him or her, make fun of the kid somehow, and walk away. Then I just call their parents and tell the principal. Piece of cake.
ANYway, I have a FEEP student this year from OSU. FEEP stands for something like “undergrad who might want to be a teacher who then decides to go observe a classroom for a ridiculous amount of hours.” My girl (she’s 19) and I have a lot in common. We were randomly chosen for each other, but she went to Clear Fork… a school with graduating classes of about 100! She was yearbook editor. Is racing through her undergrad. Plans to go right on to get her Masters and teach in a high school. She is so fun to watch interact with my students – they love her.
On our way to lunch today, we were walking down the stairs and saw a tiny gaggle of scraggly looking hipsters (quick professional judgment: at least 2 of the 5 kids have cigarettes on them, like music from bands I have never and will never hear of, and probably do about 48% of homework on any given week). There was a little PDA, a little “loitering,” and it was clearly after the bell rang for lunch. FEEP and I slowly descended the stairs, and the kids peeked at us out of the corner of their eyes, slowly stopped PDA-ing, and walked toward the lunch room. No fuss. No problems. They knew what to do and they knew it was time to go.
This is mundane, yeah. But I asked FEEP what she was thinking as we saw the group of kids who were obviously where they shouldn’t have been doing stuff that could have escalated into Gross/Weird. She said, “I thought you were going to say something, but you didn’t.” It was lucky. Some times I have barked at kids to go away or get lost or something and they have said mean stuff back. I would even go as far to say that at my old school some kids HARASSED ME (if you know what I’m talking about, keep laughing… ). I’ve been cussed at, sure. It is part of the job. But today with FEEP, it occurred to me that if anyone ever asked me what advice I would give to new teachers, I would have a pretty good idea what to say.
I am impulsive. Inconsistent. I know this about myself. A little messy. A little unorganized. I don’t care that the laptop cords hang out of the cart. I don’t care if MLA format isn’t just so. I’m a Big Picture kind of person, but that’s because I spent some time worried about the little things. Like the cords. And what everyone and their mom thought about my weekly agendas, or a random joke I maybe shouldn’t have said. When you’re a young teacher, the little things should bug you. If they don’t, it means you won’t make it, because you’ll never be able to see them, see PAST them, and find what really matters (que the Bette Midler wings song). The stuff that matters in a classroom and in a school is very simple:
-the people you serve should really be the only “thing” you consider when you make decisions about what happens in class. Don’t want to grade papers? Too bad. You do what’s best for your students. If it makes you mildly uncomfortable, or tired, or bored, it doesn’t matter. It ain’t about you.
-OK, it’s a little about you (the teacher). You need to take bathroom breaks, and cackle a little in the hall once in a while. More importantly, you need to feel supported by your superiors. Supported implies valued.
-Teach as many different classes as you can. You have to figure out how to “wing it.” I can easily recall being Terrified if I had 10 minutes left over in class and nothing to occupy the sweethearts. Now, I never have extra time and if I do, I talk about True Blood, Downton Abbey, Walt Whitman, Breaking Amish, or just make fun of kids. I have taught 13 different classes in 8 years. I don’t get mad when I’m asked to try something new. There’s no point. Doing the new stuff is what taught me how to be a teacher… always researching, reading, learning with the kids. That has to become comfortable. Not scary.
I feel silly, but at least I got a blog post completed! My apologies to those of you who just puked your guts out.
Now, for Cyber Monday.