Teaching for Beginners

Here in my first year, it has been flowers, sunshine, and beautiful unicorns.

Baha! This can go ahead and be listed under the category, “Lies Chrissy Tells”.

Let’s be honest, teaching in the beginning is a whirlwind of emotions. Right down to the nitty-gritty nerves, excitements, stresses, failures, and successes. Not to mention, it is full of moments where you feel like you are on the right track and Rocky Balboa-ing the world and suddenly –PLOT TWIST–your day makes no sense, you’re confused, your students are confused, and they even tell the other students that you’re “pissy”. Because, if you didn’t already know, everything is always your fault. It’s blasphemy to remind them to follow the rules.

As much as I can say that I have my rough days, I also have those days where it’s rockstar status in “Palm-dog’s” classroom (yes, that is what they call me most days). For example, the amount of frightening energy that I put into delivering my lessons is generally the amount of response I get from my students, no matter how idiotic that may make me look, which brings me to my top three learned rules of teaching thus far.

Rule #1
If you are tired, so is your class

Something oh, so valuable to learn now instead of later but don’t worry. Despite the number of times people tell you this to be true, it won’t actually sink in until you experience your growing impatience and irritations in the face of tired and already dramatic teenagers. However, there is an upside that I have found to be beneficial when employed; allowing them to see that you’re human, you’re tired, and you still have to rally and get s*** done. Be a prime example of what it looks like to be down to the last wire and still working your happy little–or big ;)– a** off. Plus, if you’re acting like you’re excited, studies show the students are likely to be more engaged in the material (but really they just want to see what weird thing you’re going to do next like speaking in a southern/bronx/British accent the entire period).

Rule #2
Be prepared mentally for strange things to happen

As you get to know your class, you also get to know their quirky little personalities. I only see my kids for 45 minutes a day and then they move on to be their beautiful little souls in someone else’s class for 45 more minutes, I am left with an impression that lasts for seconds, minutes, hours, and sometimes even the whole day even after they have left my guiding presence. Strange things will happen in class. There is no doubt about that. You will say things you never thought you would have to say; things like, “for the love of all things green, do not lick that salt block”–this is a true story.

My solution to the minor distractions and disruptions? Roll with it. You are not going to get anywhere getting in the way of making ridiculous memories like you had in school. Don’t lie to yourself, you were just like them. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t boundaries, because there definitely are! However, it’s a pick-your-battles kind of situation. Keep in mind that they are kids, even if they are 18 years old and ready to depart to college, they are still going to try to write a paper about their “trap queen” on the day before Thanksgiving. If you want to get crafty like me, create a memory book in class at the beginning of the year and share it with them at the end of the year before they forget all about everything they learned over summer break.

Rule #3
Even if you’re not good at chess, you can still be a mastermind behind the strategy of the seating chart

Ahhhhhhhh, the seating chart. If asked to be defined by students, they would say it is a device used by teachers to cease their survival and deprive them of the basic human need to socialize every second of every day. Unbeknownst to me, the students require close proximity to their friends at all times in order to continue living. No deaths have been recorded at this time.

On the other hand, if similarly explained by teachers, I think we will all say it is the primal source of our power in the classroom. When done correctly, we feel like the Stephen Hawking of the chess board that is the student seating arrangement. Why, yes, you do talk a lot to her during instruction, I will go ahead and put you two rows over and two seats back so you will no longer be able to achieve eye contact, thus ceasing your in-class communication about your boyfriend. See, Student Tetris. *Picks up pencil and blows on the end*  Oh, you like to play games while I talk? Looks like you are most certainly going to be in a desk that I can clearly see your computer screen at all times. *Teachers everywhere begin applauding*

If done smart, a seating chart can also be used as a reward system. If two students influence each other in a positive way, you better put them around each other. One student’s work ethic often will direct the attention of the student whom of which struggles to have that intrinsic motivation. Not to mention when you tell them they can sit by their friends they want to catch you as you jump off the makeshift stage of desks and carry you to the finish line while simultaneously chanting your name the entire time.

While these are just some of the rules I have learned thus far, I promise there will be more. Bottom line is, I love my job, and I wouldn’t trade my worst days for anything else. The reality is, they can be exactly like Sour Patch Kids; sour at first, then totally sweet.


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