Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why I am not Michelle Pfeiffer

I thought I would take advantage of a brief and unexpected moment of calm in an otherwise mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world to write a little blog post. Way back in February, and another lifetime ago, in a little town called Mythaca, our young-ish heroine (What, I can call myself whatever I want, get your own blog) was delighted to discover that on her second day of student teaching school was canceled due to snow. And there was much rejoicing in all the land. Fast forward six months and our rapidly-aging-but-still-considered-young-ish-in-some-circles heroine is on her second day of no-longer-student teaching, otherwise known as Shit Gets Real. At this time, Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom knows she can't go throwing a snowstorm in mid-August, and so reaches into her natural disaster bag and pulls out something I like to call--Earthquake Day!!! In other words, this is all my fault, guys. (Actually, it was the Earth's fault (line)--get it?) Sorry. Citing the mantra of better safe than sorry, the powers that be decided to close the schools one day post-quake, a fact that I only learned after dragging my sorry carcass from bed pre-six in the morning, throwing myself in the shower, and slapping on my face paint and my professionally boring clothes. Which means that I probably could have gone to DateMeDC et al's happy hour last night instead of lesson planning and feeling sorry for myself and crying into my pillows, but then, I couldn't have known that.

So, a brief rundown of the state of me with roughly 1.7 days of actual classroom experience under my belt: Stressed. Anxious. Ball of nerves. Overwhelmed. I do not think I can do this, guys. (You can totally do it! Go you!) Ok, I do not think I want to do this, guys. The one thing I have determined: All teachers are masochists. There is no other explanation. These are...these are...these are kids with neck tattoos, guys. These are kids with kids, and another on the way. These are eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds on their fifth year of high school who are still considered freshmen. These are kids who don't give a shit about learning French, and tell me so. These are also kids who come up to me on the first day and sweetly tell me that they aren't very good at French, but they are excited to learn. Or who write on their questionnaires that they are very professional and will work hard in my class. Or who write on their questionnaires that they don't like "getting yelled at," and I want to say, oh baby, who's yelling at you? But I can't even see them. They disappear in the mess and they are quiet and I am so grateful for them that I forget they even exist. Instead I am tap-tap-tapping sleepers, head up, head up, phone away, you can't have your phone, put your phone away, two times, three, five times in one class and still the phones are out and it's not like I can pretend not to see it because it's on me, it will come back and come down on me. They, not the kids, but the powers that be, they are observing, they are watching, they are judging me and they are judging me through my kids, and my future and my money depend on it, depend on them, depend on the kids staying awake, staying off their phones, listening to me, learning French, somehow, some way. But how? But what way?

Anyone who mentions Dangerous Minds will get a virtual ass-kicking and a lecture on reality vs. the product of someone's fertile and highly optimistic imagination. Meanwhile, the grocery store next to my house sells wine. I'd stopped keeping alcohol in the house for a while there, but I'm thinking it might be time to stock up.  

15 comments:

  1. Don't be afraid to be a hardass. I threw kids out of class once because they hadn't done the reading (and then gave them a mommy-style lecture the next class). In another class, I told them if I caught three cell phones out (not even being used, but actually just *out*) in a single class session, everyone would have to turn in their phones at the end of class. Both tactics worked for me. They grumbled and bitched and complained when it happened...and then I got my best evals ever at the end of the quarter, with kids saying they could tell I really cared. So be a hardass, but explain yourself straight up and they'll respect you for it. That's my experience anyway.

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  2. Oops, I mean they had to turn in their phones *to be returned at the end of class.*

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  3. that's how I felt after my first week as a teaching assistant (although I was alone in the classrooms) at the high school here in the north of France. I was only a few years older than most of the students in Terminale, and most of them couldn't speak decent French, let alone English. So all that to say, I feel your pain. Hang in there. Wine definitely helps. Fortunately for me, it was dirt cheap in France. How much is a bottle going for in the grocery store in DC these days?

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  4. Several years ago, my brother left his architect job to become the tech teacher at the local high school. He had no teaching experience or training (it was a VERY small town). He spent the first few months in a panic, calling our teacher mom every couple of days for advice, like when, a month into the year, he was asked to submit his itemized budget for the following year. He spent the rest of the year in less of a panic, but still tense. Now, however, he seems to really love it.

    I know it doesn't help right now to say that it's just going to take time, but...it's just going to take time. It will get better. Like Jade says, establish yourself as boss. Don't be afraid to be a pain in their ass. My favorite teachers, the ones I look back at fondly, were the ones who made me work the hardest, who didn't make things easy on me. Which is not to say that they weren't there if I needed a little extra help or a push in the right direction, but they didn't take any crap and everyone respected them for it.

    Good luck!

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  5. I was actually thinking more along the lines of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit? No?

    Good luck and stay strong. Be a hardass if you have to!

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  6. I'm glad we got to see you before your life turned into a lifetime movie!

    I hope it gets better!

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  7. This has nothing to do with you post, i just thought i'd let you know that good ol' Jeff Mangum is gonna be playing in Baltimore at the end of Sept., and releasing a NMH box set, on vinyl of course cuz he's a geek, and he's selling drawings for charity and if the website ever comes back up i'm gonna go out and get you one, how bout that, yes yes i know i'm like a ray of fucking sunshine.

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  8. Damn Girl, i got through on the website but all the drawings are sold out, i'll keep checking for you though and if i get my mitts on one i'll send it to you.

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  9. My friend switched schools this year and had to sit through a lecture on why you're not supposed to take a student's cell away, because it hinders learning. Um, excuse me? Apparently they think they'll be so distracted thinking you should give their phone back that they won't learn anything, and that if it's a problem you should incorporate their phone into the lesson. I fucking kid you not.

    Hang in there, it'll get better. And if it doesn't you can always use their cell phones to throw at their heads when they fall asleep.

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  10. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Unfortunately, these are not kids who would let you take their phone away, and I am not going to try. So far I have called home and assigned detention to five kids. I sort of doubt anyone will show up for it, but their parents were all very concerned and grateful for my call. So not the part of teaching I wanted to focus on.

    And Kono, you're too good to me. Although, I do wish Mr. Mangum had thought of the teachers when he scheduled his shows on a Monday and a Tuesday night. And me without a car. Sigh.

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  11. And Rassles, your comments are often cryptic, but this time I have no idea.

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  12. I'd like to say that after 11 years of teaching, I still don't feel this same way....but that would be a lie.

    And I believe Rassles is quoting The Kinks, lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-la.

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  13. Oh my god. Duh. Leave it to me to unconsciously quote The Kinks and then be all, what? huh? who said what now?

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