Teaching is Weird, and I’m About to Do it Again

Teaching is a weird job. Teachers get paid–a little–to essentially stand in front of people and update them on everything humanity has learned so far. It’s the career equivalent of the “previously upon” part of tv shows. The other weird thing about teaching is that a few times during the academic year and a few times in the Summer, I get a new flock of youths to update on all the nifty things people have figured out so far. Then I have to talk to all these people for anywhere from a month to 16 weeks. So, for a chunk of a year, I get to think of weird ways to tell a bunch of people everything I know and hope they know some of it by the time we’re through with each other. In a few days, I’ll be getting two new batches of youths, and it feels a little like having children combined with being a professional dog trainer. That’s mean, but it’s as accurate as I can get.

This is sometimes what it feels like to be a teacher

 

As I’m about to get a new set of youths, I’m running through a now-familiar set of emotions. I always start out excited because I love my job. It’s fun to think about new students in the abstract because each name on the roster represents someone new and interesting, and sure they may blend in my memory years later, but while I know them and have to teach them, they’re a lot of fun. Even the students who end up being absolute assholes are interesting.

My first feeling about starting a new class is always excitement, and then the apprehension hits. What if they don’t like my jokes? What if they realize I’m only a few years older than them, and then they do the math and figure out I’ve only been teaching for a few classes, and then they know I’m fresh, barely tested. Students, like wolves, sharks, and printers, can sense weakness. The infinite potential for meeting a class of interesting people doubles as potential for a semester trapped with a mob of laser-focused supervillains highly trained to pick and jab at your every flaw. This hasn’t happened to me, and it probably never will, but I am just obsessive and irrational enough to dwell on the thought until my next pre-semester set of jitters moves in.

It’s 2017, so why does it still take 6 months and a gallon of elf blood to print something
How I think my class sees me

Despite my best efforts, I get older every year. Every day, even. I’ve spoken to a priest and several scientists or various fields, but none of them were of any use in halting my aging. My search continues, but until I find a unicorn and suck it dry or a vampire does the same thing to me, I will be assaulted by a generation-inspired panic when I think about the age of my new students. This next set is in high school. I was in high school less than 10 years ago, which should be a comfort, but then I remember that I wasn’t exactly the bee’s knees back then either. For example, I said things like “the bee’s knees” and talked just a little too much about dragons. I panic before meeting my students because I know I won’t be able to keep up with their culture, but that usually only lasts long enough for me to remember I don’t have to keep up with their culture. One of my course evaluations said I was “hip,” which I think translates to “he’s not cool, but he’s trying.”

It’s kind of a shame I’m a teacher in charge of educating young minds when I am actually three children standing on each other in a big coat with mannequin arms sticking out the sleeves and a Sharpie beard. Imposter syndrome is real, and it hits like a linebacker made of bricks. I’ve studied my own CV and resume just to remind myself I have the experience to do the job I already have, but the feeling that I’m a fraud doesn’t go away until I meet my students and really find out I can be useful to them. I’ve heard other, way more experienced teachers feel the same way. It’s not fun, but it’s always a relief to be reminded of your relentless competence when a student asks you how to send an email.

And then class starts, I get to meet my new students, and they’re all pretty standard people. Some of them are interesting, some are nice, some are assholes, some are hard to remember at the end of the day. Teaching is weird, and then it repeats. When I think of myself in the far future, dead, I wonder if students will come to my funeral, and if they do, I wonder if I’d have recognized any of them, and I wonder how many of them will have first thought of me as an obstacle.

45 Replies to “Teaching is Weird, and I’m About to Do it Again”

  1. Being a young teacher is hard, I hear you, I was there. When you get older, there are new problems to confront. The further away in age you get from them, the less informed you are about the stuff they’re into (because you don’t care) so sometimes it’s a challenge to find common ground until you get into the groove of learning how to communicate with young people as an “old” person who doesn’t know or care anymore about their little trends and bad ideas about fashion (“old” according to them, because they think 30 or 35 is old).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t teacher….never cared much for fancy book learn in’ neither. But I have a BA in Journalism and spent 31 of the longest years of my life on the air in various Texas cities, large and small. I was able to retire five years ago. Ah, blissfull nothingness.

    I like your writing and I’ll will risk outing my narcissism by admitting we write alike. At the very least, it seems we see and feel things in similar ways. Like you, I’m an optimistic pessimist; an honest liar; the strongest, most vulnerable woman on the planet. Conundrums are the coolest people. Our complexity is a virtue.

    Anyway, just found your blog. You’re a gifted writer. I’ll be back. Eat your life veggies. Have a daily BM, you know, the usual .

    I’ll be back.

    Greetings from Texas,
    LK

    i

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Why yes,…Yes, I am a very cool cat and for a 58 year broad, I’m also one happening chick. But aren’t we , really?

        You’re young and smart. I see a book in your future.

        Me? Just lots of angry letters of complaints to AARP and Medicare and various catheter companies.

        Take care. Oh and regardless of the year or grade level you teach one day, consider springing Heidegger and Nihilism on them….just for kicks.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Fear based learning is the the key. Besides, make it easy on yourself. . Just put this sign on your classroom door Monday, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”” . Then tell them them the sign offers then options, butdon’t tell them what the options are. Have a bitchin’ weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sometimes just draw pleasant cartoons on the board. I’ll put up a li’l cat in a suit and write something encouraging next to it like “some people die before they ever find love.” Just something to keep the crowd spirited.

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      1. I LOVE that approach. Failure in life has to be emphasized and reinforced. They must be reminded constantly that they’d not matter and never will. Professionally the best they can aspire to professsionallynis prostitution or or an ISIS mulee and not only that, they’ll die alone, 120 lbs over weight and was so so disgusting as a human and sexually disgusting as a a corpse, maggots will avoid them. Dying without ever knowing love is proper defeatism Teach it well, my dear. They will be wiser for never having an ounce of intelligence. And just for me, please Go hard on the ones that never made their beds. Yay!

        they will die 120 lols overweight, with gout and

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand completely. Reconciling yourself with the possibility of failure is so important. The only way we can teach that a LOT of effort is essential to succeed is to acknowledge the relentless potential to crash and burn. There’s always so much that can go wrong if we don’t work as hard as we can to make sure it doesn’t end in ashes, and even then it’s never a guarantee.

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      1. The Phoenix? Just a rather oddly spend city in Arizona. No ananlous example here….just keep moving. Nothing to see here.

        Teach failure. Teach how to stumble and crash. Failure…the soul killing kind…..that kind that’s keeps, you in bed drinking generic Kool AId , eating stale moonpies and Crisco as a dip. That’s where the real life lessons and learning takes place. Teachers ar wonderful and vital,and but teach mistakes too. I have several PhDs in failure, bad judgement, poor choices…the list reads like a scroll. But I’m happy for each one of them. Surviving them has taught me to live and beyond that, how to stay wonderfully, beautifully jaded. I praise Ganesh. I look good in green.

        Have a stellar or mediocre weekend….your choice.

        Best,
        Laurie

        Like

  4. This was very entertaining. Also, thanks for liking my post! Not sure if you know much about Korea, but I read your article on violence a bit. …. Here in South Korea, casual violence seems even more a part of Kids’ culture than it is back in North America, as far as I can tell. Kids constantly whacking eachother in ridiculous ways. (sigh). Not sure how this will come out, but certainly this desensitization to violence seems to be a trend worldwide…

    Best wishes, – Max

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My daughter has been teaching English at a high school on the Yakama Indian Reservation for 3 years. Her stories are similar to yours but the students she works with come from nightmare family situations. Besides the English curriculum she also teaches how to write resumes and to do general job search. She’s also enabled at least three seniors to be accepted into top colleges with full rides from the Gates Foundation.

    But I write not to brag about my daughter…ok, that WAS my main reason. But besides that, I’m somewhat…ok…a LOTwhat older than you are. I coined a phrase years ago: Aging Is A Cruel Thing. And indeed it is. My many years of experience on this subject is that when it comes to reversing the aging process, well, there’s no way to reverse the aging process. My best advice is to enter into a lifelong coma. You’ll still age but you’ll be unaware of it as your mind cavorts in eternal youth elsewhere. Remember, it’s all in the mind, you know.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. She is. She’s fortunate to be working at a school where she’s been given the opportunity to literally change lives. She also taught herself to write grants for her high school and the district. A local newspaper did a story on her. But I’ve heard her tell stories of teaching in front of new students that are very similar to yours. I’ll bet all through school you always claimed you’d never be a teacher.

        Comatose cavorting is much preferable to comatose lying there immobile. But then you’re really lying their immobile anyway, aren’t you? But that’s why I plan to teach a course and write books in Lucid Comatosing. I figure I might make more money from students who are not yet comatose, but with all business startups you can’t be too choosy. And I guess if the Grateful Dead could make it big the Comatose Cavorters have a shot at rock stardom too.

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      2. Oh I absolutely had no intention of becoming a teacher, but then I accidentally started doing it and liking it, kind of like a drug I didn’t notice I was taking. I’ll hold out hope someone starts the Comatose Cavorters and definitely go to their shows

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  6. This year was my first year as a teacher as well. I’m also a high school teacher, so I’m very close to my students’ ages so I know how you feel! I’m currently in the scared stage of wondering how this next year will go! I can’t agree with you more: Teaching is weird. Your dog training comparison is also accurate! You’re never sure if you’re going to get bit or licked each day, or if they’ll just bark your ear off!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You are a good writer. I love the layout and pictures too.

    I too am a teacher and I still get nervous before each new class, but it turns out to be great each time (that is, once I got out of elementary school and began teaching adult ESL).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Do read my collection (My 15th book, “Circling Round Everything 2015-2016 has just come out) called Definitely Didactic. You’ve just made me realize that that’s gonna be my 16th. There comes a time in one’s life – it did in mine – when all you want to do is share what you know or think about. It’s not about ‘teaching’. It’s about, well, I don’t know what to call it. ‘Sharing’ sounds a bit overused and under-effective. There’s vanity in there somewhere – this need to put it out there. Maybe, ‘giving’ what you find or you’ve found worthy of the world to see is more accurate.
        So carry on with your ‘teaching’. Some will ‘get it’ and some won’t. Some will love you forever, some you won’t ever make a dent in.
        Have a nice day from cloudy Sweden.

        Liked by 1 person

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