Friday, April 01, 2005

The Why's of Teacherliness.....

I just woke up from a delicious nap, so wish me luck posting this with any semblance of clarity.

Yesterday I was talking with a friend that I hadn't spoken to in quite some time. We were catching up on any and everything under the rainbow, when the question of my work situation came up.

"'re teaching now?"...lip beginning to curl...."Whyyyy?" Then he got this look on his face as if he'd smelled a rotten corpse somewhere in the building. Between the lip curl and the corpse look I was mildly taken aback.

"Umm, yeah. I teach at a junior college! I like it!" (as if to point out that I don't teach dogs how not to poop on the carpet...I teach people! Real ones!).

The more I pondered this little interlude the more irked I got. I've noticed a few categories of responses when you tell someone you're a teacher...whether it's high school, or middle school, or college.

1. Those who give you a genuine smile and say, "Wow, I can say shit in front of an English teacher!" and think it's cool that you're helpin' people. Those are my faves...*waving at Rachel*. Right after I got my high school gig she sent me a note with the previous quote in it. hehe That's one of my favorite stories.

2. Those who give you the curl and the snarl because anything to do with teaching is peon work and you're obviously a slave putting on a show, like dancing monkey, for a bunch of basket cases.

Now, there is one small addition to these categories once you start telling people you teach college...

3. "Wowwww!..*goggly eyes*" As if you're holding a magic golden dildo that you might use to smite them.

Teaching is one of the most noble professions, in my opinion. And I don't say that to toot my own horn because I still have trouble seeing myself as a grownup and, thus, as a teacher and something of a role model for some of my students. When I was teaching high school I really had to do the role model thing. Many of my kids (yes, they're students, but I called them my kids, kiddos, babies, etc.) were considered "at risk" and had shitty lives at home. It was a true challenge to wrangle their little heads into anything resembling an attentive state on a daily basis. We studied grrreat stuff, as I was teaching World Lit. to sophomores. Hormones raging, boyfriend troubles, girlfriend troubles, tryouts, sports egos, hunger, hyperactivity...LOTS of challenges. It was a whoooole different animal than what I'm doing now. I respect elementary-high school teachers for their pure will to teach and patience...not to mention their knowledge of their subject (although there are always one or two that don't have a damn clue), and their devotion to spreading knowledge and improving the lives of students. It was THE hardest job I've ever had. And, I can honestly say, I don't know that I ever wanna work that hard again!

Now I go into classrooms with much tougher audiences. High school kiddos love you if you truly love them, and they know if you're scammin'. College students come in with, "Hey teach, show me whatcha got!" And if you've got the goods they'll pass the word on to their friends and your classes will continue to make in the future. They also know if you care about them and care about your job, but some of them don't really give a crap...they're just there for the hours. Thus, the challenge is the same in most ways: engaging minds and filling them up with all the stuff you need to cram in there. You still have to come up with new and interesting ways to present material, meet the standards of numerous higher-ups (the state, your institution, etc.), and spend lots of hours outside of class planning and grading. You have to have a large bank of knowledge because those peeps can come up with some killer questions, and you've gotta plan your heart out or they'll find alllll the holes.

The perks of teaching college: Wearing jeans, working 2 days a week, the ability to let class out early if you feel like crap.

Teaching, in general, is a personally rewarding experience. While it's mostly thankless (as evidenced by the snarlies) there are some shining moments that remind you that you're doing some good. Sometimes it comes from an inspired student who realizes their ability has expanded, and sometimes it's from a parent, or sometimes it's even from a boss or co-worker. I get excited about teaching because I'm excited about English! I love to write, and I love to read, and I love sharing even just a little bit of that with my students. My job is funnnnn! Snarl at that.


  1. So I guess now would not be a good time to snarl? ;)
    Seriously though, I snarl and respect. Though it's more a snarl of wow I can't believe you can do that. So I guess it's a snarl of respect...

  2. I think teachers are right up there with sliced bread, or actually, cheesecake. You have my undying respect and gratitude especially when there are so many other things you could do and make a decent salary.
    And everytime you get a sneer, you might want to ask them if any of their teachers ever made a difference in their lives...most people have a story about a teacher that touched their lives somewhere along the way.

  3. AMEN! I taught for a number of years (music, 1-12 and college), and have a great deal of respect for both elementary and middle school teachers. I never felt comfortable with those ages. I agree with your observations about HS and college minds--you need to be on your toes, because they can see right through you. My greatest joy has been the number of students of mine that have continued on in music, either professionally or in education. Quite frankly, I don't think there's a more noble profession, and I'll take the satisfaction of making a personal difference in someone's life over the empty achievements of a "real job". Now if there was a way to make money at it....

  4. Yea to you is what I have to say. I've told you I want to get my teaching cert right? I'm still tutoring Bree (the girl from the other night) in math, and it looks like I will be doing so til the end of school. My brain is on overlaod right now. Yikes!! No, I really do enjoy it, to the point that I think I might minor in math now..*bowing to the teachs of the world*

  5. Cherbear: I still love ya.

    Trapped: Thanks for the comment! And I've never been compared to cheesecake, but it's my faaaavorite, so I thank you kindly. I definitely had one (actually more) of those really inspiring of which is the reason I got into English AND she's the one that got me the college gig. She's the bestest!!!!

    Amen right back atcha, Osbasso!! Great response! And I wouldn't take a "real job" now either...unless it was in a library or a writer. But those aren't too close to real jobs anyway. lol

    You did tell me that, Val, and I think you'd make a fantastic teacher!!! The math thing scares me, but you were always wayyy better at it than me, so I can see where it wouldn't scare you. lol

  6. That's funny Andi, because when I tell people I have an English degree they ALWAYS ask me why don't I teach? I always say because I don't want too (duh!)

    I actually wouldn't mind it except once kids reach the age of 10 they scare me.

    Sure hope Ellie doesn't...


  7. LOL, Heather! I'm sure Ellie won't be scary. My oldest "little" cousin, Mikel, is 14, and he's at that point where he just sleeps at every available opportunity. hehe

  8. I have the deepest respect for those who teach. I have no patience. I would be the teacher who goes nuts 2 weeks into term and starts picking people off with my gun from the roof top. Or maybe I'd just drink alot!

  9. I did see a rise in my drinking habits as a high school teacher. lol


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