The Teacher I Never Wanted To Be

I got tired of asterisks halfway through writing this post, so I will just say here that all student names are pseudonyms.


Ok, today was a BAD day.  By the end of the day, I had mysteriously morphed into the kind of teacher I never wanted to be — super stern and strict; one of the “Sit. Do.” teachers.  I completely understand how I got there, so let me fill you in.

Jaclyn and I arrived at school today and Ann-Sofi said both of her children (ages 3 and 11) were ill and home from school.  She asked if it was ok with us if she went home, and we said yes because we have had control in her English classes for over a week and the only other class she would be gone for was a French class.  She had prepared all the materials (possessive pronouns notre, votre and leur) for the French class and I speak enough French that I could help them if they had questions.  So Ann-Sofi left and we headed in with straight backs and heads held high!

In the first English class (our equivalent 9th graders), we split the students into groups based on the novel they’re reading to cover vocabulary, plot and some higher-order thinking questions.  In my group of 13, 3 had read what they were required to read for class today.  We still covered vocab, but it felt like it was unfair to the kids who had read to go over plot and the higher-order questions when none of the others would be contributing, but would have the benefit of their thoughts.  I told the student who hadn’t read to go back to their desks and continue reading what they were required to have read for class, and worked briefly with the students who had read before writing some questions on the board.  They were to answer the questions in a sentence or two (by now, the students who hadn’t read should have caught up) and turn them in for comments but no grade.  (Sidenote: one of the questions was “For what kind of crime is [18 months in jail an] appropriate punishment?” and got answers like “stealing a tiger”, “rape, maybe”, and “if he killed a boy” so I’m not sure what to do with that.)  I left this class frustrated with them, but also with the feeling that they would do the work they needed to do for the next class.  I had told them that I was disappointed they hadn’t done what they should have and that if they weren’t prepared for Thursday’s class, we were going to fall really far behind.

After that, I wasn’t as peppy as I had been, but I hadn’t been dragged into the depths of Teacher Hell, either.  And then came the French class.  The class began with a student, Johnny, shoving Ben into the room, stealing Ben’s books and throwing them across the room.  Johnny isn’t in Ann-Sofi’s class and has significant behavior problems and is teased quite a lot by the other kids.  I asked him nicely to go back up to the “Green House” (their intervention room; it’s called “Green House” because “it’s where you grow”) and wait for his mentor.  While I was talking to Johnny, two other students, Eric and Jim, got into a minor physical altercation.  I intervened and Johnny used this opportunity to run into the room, steal Eric’s books from his desk and run away with them.  Eric was outraged, but I convinced him to take his seat and wait for Johnny’s mentor — who would surely be down in a minute — to come return his books rather than chase after Johnny.  I got everyone settled enough to take attendance (they all laughed at how I pronounced their names) and began going over the work Ann-Sofi had assigned for them.  When I was nearly through, I noticed Johnny (mentor-less), peering through the door-window, motioning and communicating with a student in the class (Sam) with whom he is close.  I continued talking, and all of a sudden Sam stood and shouted “EMILY I HAVE TO PEE!”  I told him to wait until I was done giving directions and then he could go.  He ignored this, instead choosing to sprint out of the classroom, throwing a pencil at me on the way out.  Almost everyone else had started their work, so I went into the hall, found Sam and he reluctantly came back into the room with me.  When I got back in the class, Eric, Jim and another comrade, Caleb, were being heinously disruptive, so I told them to sit in separate corners and do their work, at times hovering over them.  I hate that I hovered.  Some of the girls in the class were obviously irritated with these boys, and asked if they could go work in the hall.  Ann-Sofi has allowed it any time her students have asked and they’re completing a task like this, so I told them they could and checked on them and their progress every-so-often.  One time I came out and one of the girls, Julia, had just returned from retrieving her coat.  I thought this was odd.  It didn’t seem so odd when I came out about 5 minutes later and she had left.  A STUDENT DITCHED.  ON MY WATCH.  There was nothing I could do about it, so I went back into the classroom, broke Eric and Jim up one more time, and sat, helping Sam so he would stay on task.  Oh, did I mention that every. single. time. I gave a direction, Eric, Jim and Sam would mock me?  In a high-pitched, super-unflattering tone?  That was disheartening.  By the end of this class, I was discouraged, defeated, and I had become the teacher I hated having and was determined never to be.  The kind that is short with the kids, visibly frustrated, and completely impatient.

I’m sad to say that it was a relief when I finally got to dismiss them.  Also, for Ann-Sofi’s sake, I want you all to know that she never would have allowed this behavior in her classroom.  In fact, as they were leaving, Sam asked if I was going to tell Ann-Sofi what happened today and when I said yes, I felt like she should know, he begged me not to tell her.  I just don’t know why, if she has such high expectations (and reasonable delivery from the students on these expectations) they would be so out-of-control with me!  I’ve never had a very weak presence, and I feel like I made it clear from the beginning that my expectations were in-line with Ann-Sofi’s, but I have no idea what happened there.  Maybe we just got off on a wild start and things snowballed?

Anyway, I left that class carrying a ton of frustration and some guilt for becoming “that teacher”.  Jaclyn and I were to team-teach Ann-Sofi’s last class of the day, (our equivalent 10th grade) English.  When we got in, it took the kids a while to settle down and get with the program.  I kind of relegated administrative tasks to myself because I was so downtrodden after the French class, but slowly came out of it.  I went into it with the attitude with which I had left the French class, so I was really easily frustrated with these kids and more impatient than I should have been.  I really can’t describe how much I hate being that teacher!  I didn’t lose my temper, really, I just kind of told them exactly what I thought (which was mostly stuff like, “We’ve told you three times to get your vocabulary lists out, so do that now.  We shouldn’t have to tell you that many times.” It doesn’t read like it was mean, but my tone wasn’t so nice.)

So today was … the worst.  The good news is that I’ve had one harrowing day that I spent absolutely bewildered, lost, and frustrated, so I’m more prepared for the next one!  The better news is that we’re off tomorrow and Wednesday, so I don’t have to be back at school until Thursday.  The best news is that, even though today was terrible and there are bound to be more days like it, I learned something from it and tomorrow’s a new day; a day I can start with the knowledge I gained!

Also, I came home and ate cookies for dinner, so that might have helped my attitude too.


10 thoughts on “The Teacher I Never Wanted To Be

  1. Sorry forthe tough day, Em. It reminds me of a few things– kids are precious chumps pretty much anywhere you go, you are the best for taking a tough day and making it a learning experience. Wait till you see the package me and Mom sent.

  2. Real talk – I’m so glad you’re keeping a blog. Also, blogging is one of my FAVORITE ways to release stress. Something about that veiled public rant feels good.

    I’m proud of you, Barnacles! Also: I don’t think you were the kind of teacher you hated because those teachers are that way every day. You had to do what you had to do, man. Stick it to ’em!

    I less than three you.

  3. I’m not gonna beat around the bush- that day sounds like an absolute nightmare. At least you teaching them English and French instead of how to put on a condom (like I had to do when I taught health education, for all you randos out there reading this.) As it turns out, you ALWAYS get made fun of when teaching someone how to put on a condom, even in the most educational of settings. So at least you don’t have to deal with that. And at least you get the next few days off. That is wonderful!

    Things WILL get better!

  4. Being THAT teacher is not what any of us want. Some people just never figure out how to NOT be that teacher. You will figure it out, I’m sure of it. It didn’t help your situation that they have 2 days off school, that always makes them crazier. Chin up and NEVER let them see you sweat!

  5. Emlily,
    I finally read, “the worst day”, and I have to say it happens to the best of us. Sometimes you have to be that teacher because the class demands it. I can absolutely appreciate how you must be feeling but hang in there. At least no one was throwing their shoes around the room, right? I know you are doing a fantastic job and you may not believe it now, but those kids are going to love you and genuinely be sad when you leave, and vice-versa.

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