Everyone I know has had a weird teacher. It seems like an unfortunate experience we all share as some kind of uncomfortable rite of passage. The weird teacher isn’t the one who sometimes tells bad jokes or occasionally smells a little of garlic. They’re the one that brings in a plate of brownies with bites already taken out of them. They’re the one that tries to give away a box of old wigs and naked dolls to their students. The weird teacher isn’t just a teacher who happens to be kind of strange. They’re the one that takes what is rational or appropriate, throws that shit off the roof, and does whatever they want. It is the difference between someone who does their job in a unique way and someone who doesn’t do their job at all and fails in such a way that leaves a bad impression on their students forever. It’s the difference between leaving students with asking your students to watch a montage of strange Egyptian cheese commercials while you run to the bathroom and separating a bunch of 8th graders into boys and girls, making them line up in order from shortest to tallest, and having them follow you to the bathroom where you will wait outside while your weird ass teacher takes her damn time.
The difference between a weird teacher and the weird teacher is, I hope, the difference between me–sometimes I make bad jokes and enjoy garlic-y snacks to protect against vampires–and my 8th grade homeroom teacher who brought her class half-eaten brownies, a plastic tub of coarse, torn wigs and naked dolls, and made us wait for her outside the bathroom in an arbitrary and insulting formation.
I’m about to start teaching again. I’ve got a three-week window before I meet my new students. That means I’ve got three weeks to make sure I’m not the kind of weird that gives my students distressing dreams 11 years later. I don’t want to be the kind of teacher that makes them stand to attention in the order of their gender as I see it. I don’t want to bake brownies, take noticeable bites out of them, and try to pawn the rest off on my class for reasons that will remain inexplicable to them for the next decade.
I’m a pretty weird person. It’s inevitable that information is going to get out among my students. There’ll probably be rumors that I sing offkey renditions of incomplete songs while riding my bike to work, and I’ll have to admit those rumors are true. I don’t mind if my students know I’m kind of a strange person, but I do hope they don’t think of me in the same way I still think of my 8th grade homeroom teacher: Ms. ****, second only to puberty, you were the most infuriating, most exhausting, most aggravatingly pointless and distressing experience in my time at school. I hope you found a wig that fits.