Friday, September 27, 2013

Supposedly Teaching, Part X

Same song, different verse...

(All names have been changed, except for any DA kids mentioned, because I've already spilled their details all over this blog and am too lazy to go back and change it.)

Part I
My very first classroom observation at my new school didn't go well. It wasn't the best day to come in and observe me, because I wasn't really teaching (or, I should say, I wasn't lecturing/instructing/leading a discussion). My students were listening to a podcast about the Great Persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian.

And of course, that is the day my principal, Mrs. Smith, came to observe me. When she walked in, my heart sank: this is not my best teaching day. Why today - of all days? I wondered.

Well, there was nothing I could do about that, so I plowed ahead with the podcast. The class was taking notes, I was elaborating here and there with the podcast, stopping it to explain something, but for the most part, the dude on the podcast was doing the "teaching." It was a great lecture - informative, insightful, interesting (at least, I thought so).

And then, he swore.

Not a bad swear. Just a little swear.

But still, he swore.

On the podcast.

While my very wonderfully and extremely Christian principal was sitting in on my not-already-good class.

Really?

Really?

The worst part was that I did preview the lecture, but missed the swear word.

I was mortified. Yes, I cried (after school). I hate to admit that, because it makes it seem less funny, but then I laughed at myself afterwards. I hate presenting a less-than-excellent image of myself to my superiors, I guess, and I just wish that I could have been doing something spectacular for my first observation. But, the truth of the matter is: teaching is filled with about 90% of non-spectacular moments - reviewing, paperwork, catching up with kids and their assignments, nagging, recapping, reminding, reminding, reminding - It's that magical 10% that makes it all worth it.

After The Swear Word Incident, I told my students: When we are talking about irony, I want you to remember this: the time Mrs. Smith came into observe Miss Bowers for the very first time, and the lesson included cussing.

It was all okay - she forgave me, and didn't fire me (phew!). But still...really?


And then, yesterday, she came in, again, at a bad time - my students were reviewing for their history test. After she left, I joked: "Well, at least there wasn't any swearing."

The young man who is shaping up to be my "dry commentator on all things" muttered: "She always comes in at the most inopportune moments."

I didn't know 10th graders used words like "inopportune."

Part II
The story of my life - the only story of my life - is that I speak before thinking. I speak, and then I realize what I've said. It's ridiculous. But also, amusing and it provides humorous anecdotes for all of you, so my verbal diarrhea has a purpose.

I was doing so well. For 4 weeks. So. well. Not that I hadn't said some somewhat-ridiculous things, but for the most part, I hadn't said anything extremely stupid.

I was getting ready to pass out a test, and even though I had told them to clear off their desks and put away their study materials, one of my students was still studying (there is always one...).

"Put away, your papers, Mary," I chided.

"Yeah, Mary!" said another student somewhat derisively.

Mary is a twin, and something about the tone of the student made me think that I had said the wrong name, the name of her twin.

"It's Mary, right? Wait..."

"Yes, it's Mary," the class assured me.

"Thank goodness! I'm usually pretty good at telling twins apart."

I continued: "I have taught many, many sets of twins, both fraternal and identical, in my teaching career so far, and I'm really good at telling them apart - I just make sure I always have assigned seats."

I was about to tell the story about the time that Kent and Joel claim they switched seats early on in English 11 and I didn't notice, and how it was so hard to tell them apart at first, and how for years, I knew that Kent was the one that greeted me, because I had him in study hall, in 9th grade, and Joel was the one who didn't, because he didn't "know" me, and then when I taught them both I was so confused, but now I can't even imagine not being able to tell them apart, because Kent is clearly Kent, and Joel is so clearly Joel.

It's a good story. They would have enjoyed it.

Actually, that is basically the story.

I was about to tell it (please, disregard the fact they were about to take a test...), when suddenly, Little Billy spoke up (out of turn, of course). Now, Little Billy is a delightful kid - he really is. He rarely stops talking, however. He's funny. And, he's one of those "get the last word in" types.

"Oh, Good Story, Miss Bowers," he scoffed.

If this shocks you, Little Billy and I already have developed a (mostly good) sarcastic relationship - do you know the kind I mean?

So I said: "Oh, Shut Up!" and laughed.

Suddenly, the room got really quiet - I am not sure if anyone was really tracking what was going on between us, or if they thought I was trying to get them to be quiet.

I realized that I had just told a student to shut up. Now, of course in context, it was totally...a part of the moment. But, still, I, a teacher, had said "shut up." Really loudly.

Even though it was the kind of "Oh, Shut Up!" you said in jest to your friend who is making fun of you, not the kind of "Oh, Shut Up!" you say to your brother or sister when they are getting on your nerves when you are twelve and they are a lot younger.

After a moment, everyone started to giggle and laugh and point and exclaim.

I was standing there with my hand over my mouth, cackling for a long time. Oh. My. Word.

And then, Little Bobby, my wonderfully dry observer of all things said: "At least Mrs. Smith didn't walk in just then."

Amen!

Happy Friday, Friends.







**Disclaimer: The classroom anecdotes expressed on this blog are purely personal and are intended for entertainment and amusement of my friends and family. They are not intended to, in any way, show my place of employment in a poor light. All "faux pas" are utterly and completely my own fault. Do not, in anyway, decide not to send your child to this school because occasionally, teachers are silly and not completely serious and occasionally make humorous mistakes. I hope that you can appreciate teachers who are willing to admit their own mistakes, and that the classroom can be a place of laughter in the midst of learning.**

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