This morning I had my first experience of “co-teaching” a class. I taught a reading lesson to an eighth grade literacy class, and it was a ton of fun. For the most part, it went great. I didn’t bungle anything irreparably, the students seemed to react well to me, the room had a great energy and I didn’t find the “classroom management” (I.E, communicating expectations and enforcing consequences) portion of the day as difficult as I imagined. Yet, there were a few things that were unexpected and unpleasant. One was that my knee-jerk response to aggression is to smile or laugh. That’s fine when you are watching TV or you can easily check out of a situation, but chuckling when one 14 year old boy smacks another 14 year old boy on the back of a head with a pencil when you are teaching a class is like saying, “EVERYONE GO CRAZY, NO RULES HERE, ‘KAY?” Fortunately the situation was recovered quickly (paraphrased: the dismissal bell rang) but it was definitely a learning experience. Plus, it’s given me a chance to think about the parts of my personality that are less conducive to being an instructor.
- I hate meeting new people. I’m bad with names, I never know what an appropriate subject of conversation is, and my first thought on shaking hands with anyone new is “OMG GERMS” followed by “OMG NEW PERSON WHAT IS YOUR NAME I FORGOT” followed by “OMG AM I SHAKING HANDS RIGHT?” which inevitably leads to me blushing, mispronouncing my own name, or needing a stiff drink. This is not exactly a great situation to be in when you’re going to meet 120 new people in a day and have to teach ALL OF THEM IN A CLASS. Pretty sure that any school I teach at will object to me using a Borg numbering pattern to name my students. “Hello student 5 of Language Arts Block One, that was an inefficient and ineffective approach to the essay task…”
- Things like passing people in the hallway makes me break out in a sweat. Seriously. I start wondering if I’m walking normally, I worry that I may walk to close to them or them to me, I wonder if they are going to engage me in a conversation, I wonder if my smile seems fake, I wonder if this is a “hello, nice morning” situation or I should say nothing… SCHOOL HALLWAYS ARE FULL OF PEOPLE.
- No, really, I often worry that I don’t walk like a normal person. I worry that I stand weird. I worry that I sit weird. I worry that I have a funny look on my face and don’t know it, I’m almost constantly sure that my hair is WRONG.
- I’m in constant chaos with my assertive nature fighting my desire to never hurt anyone. I find myself being strict and then regretting it, or being gentle and then regretting not being strict. I am so incredibly paranoid about how to manage a classroom that is safe and orderly, and wondering how to walk the tightrope between the student’s needs (for structure as well as autonomy) and my own need (to be able to teach effectively).
- Plus, what if I accidentally cuss? I’ll probably cuss. And knowing me, it’ll be a hell of a curse word.
- I’m constantly going on rabbit trails in my mind that even my husband can’t follow. 6 hours of instruction a day for five days a week for most of a year = a whole lot of confusing innocent children with my Leporidaeian mind. Sigh.
- I often don’t like other people’s kids. I know, that’s horrible. It’s absolutely awful. But I’ve been in the room with 7 year olds who I have a hard time seeing as people because in my mind they are just germ-riddled TV channel changing machines with no independent thought. (I KNOW, THAT’S AWFUL OF ME.) This problem often gets worse as kids age until they get about to 16 or 17 and have been humiliated enough to show some depth of rational thought (I KNOW I AM A BAD PERSON) so what if I’m teaching a bunch of empty headed kids who I have nothing but disdain for? (I NEED TO SHUT UP OH GOD SAVE ME FROM MYSELF…)
- I pretend to be this open-minded person who will debate about anything and always sees every side of an issue. That’s who I want to be, and who I manage to be at times. But then there are these other times where someone disagrees with me and all I want to do is shake their shoulders and say, “is there a brain in there? How obvious is the right answer here?” I’ve been lucky enough that in one employment my boss didn’t mind me openly contradicting him, and in my other job having very little to disagree about (there are only so many ways to pass out meds and clean toilets), and in my current position agreeing with my supervisor in everything, but the education system is FULL of debate, and I, um, debate much better on the internet than in real life.
Of course all of this is mediated, in large degree, by the fact that teaching comes naturally to me and language comes naturally to me and all of the parts of the job that have to do with teaching and language make me feel more alive than pretty much anything in the world other than raising my children and tolerating (er, choosing (er, loving?)) my husband. But, seriously…. beneath this intelligent, put together, adultish veneer I’m still a paranoid antisocial awkward kid who hides in the bushes to read because everyone else in the world is awful.
And, my God, walking into a school makes that part of me SCREAM with agony.
I’ve still got a year to find a good therapist before I’m doing this full time…. hm…