Tuesday, June 11, 2013

50 things my minor in secondary education didn't teach me

1.       How to call students’ parents (and avoid letting them hear your knees shaking)

2.      How to deal with students who are distracted by your classroom’s leaky ceiling

3.      How to keep a straight face when your students say something ridiculous and slightly inappropriate

4.      How to control your anger at inanimate objects and technology when they don’t work when you need them most, and then how to (attempt to) fix them

5.      You need to be fiercely protective of your pens.

6.      How to make sure you get something resembling a normal night’s sleep

7.      How to accept that you’re officially an old person who has a difficult time going out and staying awake on Friday nights

8.      How to bite your tongue when a “that’s what she said” opportunity, or something else equally inappropriate, presents itself

9.      How to deal with not having time to pee all day

10.   How to dodge unwanted hugs

11.    Dress in layers or have a sweater/jacket on hand, because your classroom will rarely be an acceptable temperature.

12.   Boys enjoy drawing penises. Everywhere.

13.   Students expect you to be a bank: “Do you have change for a $20?”

14.   Your eating schedule will be greatly thrown off; some days you might eat 4 meals, and most days you will snack multiple times, all of these at odd hours.

15.   Keep granola bars or something similar in your desk for when you get hungry or for when a student does not have a lunch.

16.   The fact that a significant portion of your paycheck will go towards purchasing pencils for kids who don’t have them, tissues, hand sanitizer, colored pencils, tape, various other classroom supplies, and decorations to make your classroom look welcoming. And then the students will complain that you don’t have something else they need.

17.   How to find creative ways to keep a book interesting for yourself even after you’ve taught it a dozen times

18.   How to respond calmly when the 4th child in a row asks you what page we’re on

19.   How to tactfully tell a girl her shirt is too revealing or a boy that he needs to pick up his pants

20.  When you expertly quote a book or play from memory for your students, they will be dazzled. Use this to your advantage.

21.   When people tell you, “I thought you were a student!” you should laugh as though it is not the 87th time you’ve heard that.

22.  You will spend approximately 23% of your life making photocopies and stapling/3-hole punching them

23.  The importance of hydration

24.  How to create a rubric

25.  How to write helpful comments without spending 20 minutes on each essay.

26.  It is important to take care of yourself and have at least somewhat of a life outside of school in order to keep your sanity intact.

27.  How to get your students to stop giving you nicknames

28.  How to be realistic about how long your lessons are actually going to take

29.  Sometimes, your students will teach you just as much as you teach them.

30.  There will be days in the winter when you not only drive to school in the dark, but also don’t leave until at least 4:30 when it’s dark again. If you’re lucky, you’ll at least see some sunlight if you have a classroom with windows.

31.   For at least the first year, you’ll feel like there’s a good chance you’re screwing up kids’ lives.

32.  Sometimes, you need to grade kids on different scales, because they come to your classroom with different abilities and prior knowledge.

33.  And for some, a C or a B is a huge accomplishment, and you need to congratulate them accordingly.

34.  How to act happy even when all you want to do is crawl back into your bed, and convince your students that they should be happy too

35.  The importance of Friday afternoon “poetry club,” or whatever other departments might call it

36.  Suck up to the secretaries. It will come in handy at some point.

37.  Say hi to other teachers in the hallways, copy room, etc., and get to know as many people as you can.

38.  How to stay awake during epically boring staff meetings

39.  How to sneak in some grading during said meetings

40. How to “play the game” without actually buying into all of the stupid school politics

41.   You will tell yourself that you’ll be more organized next year. This’ll be true for about a month and a half.

42.  Teachers are probably the only people who take one or two fake sick days a year in order to catch up on their work.

43.  There will be times when you love teaching, but hate your job. It is important to remember the difference between the two.

44. How to scarf down a meal in 20 minutes

45.  How to come to terms with the fact that you will sometimes preach what you don’t practice (good organizational habits, writing outlines, etc.)

46. How to figure out which kids you can joke around with a little more than others

47.  School dances can be fun when you’re a chaperone, because you’re allowed to dance like a goof (the kids already think you’re weird, so who cares?).

48. How to tell when a kid is having a bad day, and then get them to feel comfortable enough to talk to you about it

49. Sometimes, students will say such awful things that you’ll need to sneak into the book room and have a good cry.

50.  And sometimes, they’ll write you the most wonderful letters that also make you cry. Save those letters; heck, hang them up on your wall for whenever you need a reminder as to why you’re doing this.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The times they are a-changin'

Graduation was this past weekend. It was a long ceremony, but I was happy to be there. I love seeing their smiles as they proudly and nervously cross the stage, leaving behind childhood. One of my former students was the valedictorian, and gave quite a wonderful speech. He talked about all the mixed-up emotions he’s feeling right now as he gets ready to embark on this new phase of his life: happy, sad, excited, nostalgic, etc. But there was also one emotion he said he hadn’t shared with anyone before: he’s scared.
Change is most certainly a scary thing. I too am at a point where big things are changing in my life, and I’m anxious and terrified. Terrified of encountering rejection, of hating where I end up, of knowing what I want but not being able to grasp it.
Growing up, my life was always so stable that change was one of the things I feared most. I viewed it as a swear word, a circumstance to be avoided and resisted. As I got older, I learned to look at it in a more positive light. When graduating college, I was certainly sad to leave behind a place and people I loved so dearly, but also excited that I would finally be pursuing the career that I had dreamed of and worked towards for so long. I’m trying to remember that feeling now, that feeling of possibilities in various facets of my life.
I saw that excitement in my students’ faces the other day, ready for bigger and better things. I hugged them and wished them well, and I hoped that we’ve helped prepare them to face the world. There are some who I am confident will be spectacular, and some who I worry about, especially if life has already been difficult for them. I know that I’ve been well-prepared to face life’s challenges, and I know that I have a family and friends that are there to help me along the way. I’m hopeful that, as I prepare to turn a quarter of a century old and another year wiser, I too will be on to bigger and better things. And who knows? There may yet be some detours along the way. But I am going to do my best to hang on to that feeling of hope.