Tales of a Possible Teacher – Part One

Posted: May 25, 2017 in Blog
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There was a time when I considered a career in teaching.  I still am drawn to the idea, and who knows, maybe someday I will.  The issue is that my idea of teaching does not necessarily conform with reality.  I found this out in a very practical way.

When I was freshly graduated from college and unsure what I wanted to do, I looked into educating.  With only a bachelor’s degree, I’d be teaching elementary or secondary.  My dream was (and still is) to teach at the collegiate level, but that was not an option.  I received some amazingly valuable advice when I was told to spend time as a substitute to see if I liked it.

I ended up “teaching” everything from elementary to seniors in high school.  It was an eye-opening experience.  I had surprisingly persistent trouble-makers in one third grade class.  It was clear they were acting out to gain the approval of their classmates, and they were quite adept at not being too difficult.  Still, they kept pushing.  I finally had to threaten the duo with having them spend time in the principal’s office instead of computer lab to get them to shape up.

I had a junior high class where one student immediately jumped up when realizing there would be a substitute, and he began drawing what looked like gang-style graffiti on the chalk board.  I diffused this by calmly walking over and erasing what he had done, and I drew a Chinese-style dragon.  His reaction went from angry to a mixture of perplexed and impressed.  I encouraged him to try to draw what I had.  Also in middle school, I subbed on Halloween one year, and though the district did not celebrate the holiday, I showed up in all black and sporting a necklace made from bones.  One student tried to faze me by asking if I had ever killed anyone.  “Not today,” I replied.

The most advanced students I had were a group of seniors in an AP science course.  The lesson plan was to hand their tests back to them and let them group up and go over the questions they had missed.  They were self-motivated, obviously, and they all but forgot I was there as they hunched over their exams and discussed the questions.  I surprised them by interjecting and helping.  It so happened the test was on genetics, and I had taken a few classes on that very subject when I had been in college.

It felt rewarding working with some of these children, though all of them, no matter their age or discipline, made me earn their respect.  It didn’t always work out that well, but it did work out.  I typically ended most days feeling like I had just tread water.  Still, that is better than being eaten by the piranhas.

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