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.
"So...you'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.