When Friday gets here, I will officially be done with my first year of teaching. My first year of instructing the bright minds of America’s future leaders… Hopefully. That is, if I did my job well. Or, if they have any ambition. That remains to be seen with certain students.
I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve learned that I can teach pretty effectively. I’ve learned that my students probably know what a metaphor is–thanks to William Shakespeare. His timelessly eloquent “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” was matched with my equally eloquent question, “What do we know about summer days?” To which all of my classes enthusiastically responded, “They’re hot!”
I’ve learned patience. I’ve learned that my temperament isn’t volatile at all, and that even when I’m angry I don’t seem angry (except for the time I sprung a pop quiz on my students who weren’t paying attention, only to have them fail… and then tell them I wasn’t going to count the quiz. BOOM. Bitch Whit) I’ve learned that kids can choose to be as helpful or as destructive as the moment suits them. I’ve learned that I really do have the sense of a twelve year old boy, because I get along with them so well.
I think I have also mastered the art of storytelling with my students, both from my perspective to share enough of my life with them so that they can trust that I am a genuine person, and from their perspective of learning to be powerful writers on their own… Also, my life stories fill the gaps between the moments when I’m not quite sure how to instruct, or have an ADD moment, or when I’m tempted to use a “that’s what she said” joke (even though I know I shouldn’t… That’s what she said).
I have learned this year that you can have a connection with anyone, of any age, at anytime; you just need to be open and honest with them. Which is why, of course–practically–I hid my blog from my students.
I didn’t really want them to know about all of the swear words that I drop on a regular basis. I thought, oh, that probably won’t look good, and if their parents found out I’ll probably lose my job. However, I did tell them that I had a blog that was decently well known (not to toot my own horn or anything, but…toot) and they knew my first and last name. So it was kind of a miracle that nobody found it until last Friday.
I was checking my Facebook, as teachers are wont to do when the day is over and they know they don’t have to wear the adult mask anymore, and I saw that one of my students had liked Highest Form of Whit’s Facebook page. (If you haven’t liked HFOW on Facebook yet… What are you waiting for?)
That was my first thought. My second thought was: Oh, holy shit balls. What am I going to do? If he reads my whole blog, he is going to learn that his teacher swears a whole fucking lot, and she really does have the mind of a 12 year old boy. She’s not just kidding when she says that in class.
My third thought was: There’s only a week left of school, and I’m not going to teach at this school anymore. I’m moving to New York, I’m going to start over… Who cares?
Then, the anxious part of me thought: holy shit, I’m going to be banned from teaching in Colorado. There goes any career I had in education. If he tells anyone, I’m screwed. I’m going to get angry phone calls from parents, the principal is going to call me into the office to ream me out and make me cry into her bosom again, and, worst of all, I have ruined the innocence of some preteens.
I couldn’t even get through that sentence without laughing. I thought, naively, that these kids were more innocent than I was at their age, but they are just as silly and disgusting as I was. Preteens aren’t innocent anymore. Not with the internet, or cell phones, or video games. Or Justin Bieber. Especially Justin Bieber.
Then I remembered the most important thing I’ve learned from my students: that I am so invested in their futures and I care so deeply about who they are. All I can do is hope that they kind of care about who I am. And by following my blog, they are showing that they care. And eventually, we will get to be friends when they are adults and we can make the kind of jokes that I couldn’t make in class, and we can be just as honest as we were in class outside of the school building. I learned that maybe, just maybe, that connection is a two-way street. After all, I am their instructor, and they have taught me endless things about myself and Shakespeare.
So, I would like to dedicate this post to all of my students. I would like to dedicate this post to the students that made me wish daily that I could operate to remove my ovaries with a spoon. I would like to dedicate this post to the students who made me wish I was their age so that we could be best friends. I would like to dedicate this post to my students who approached me when they were going through a hard time, thinking that I could help them. I wanted to, and I did my best. I would like to dedicate this post to the student who spends her time with me every day after school just hanging out, cracking jokes, trying to sneak into my car, asking me if I could adopt her, or asking me if I could go to the movies. I would like to dedicate this to all my students who taught me as much as I taught them, or maybe even more.
So, stinkers, I dedicate this post to you for reminding me that giving back means more than just investing in the future: it means investing in the present and building those relationships that leave a lasting impression. Keep in touch, because I want to see the great things you accomplish.
Also, if you tell anyone… you will fail my class.