Lessons learned from being a Teacher Part One

It just kind of happened to me. Both my parents were teachers. I consistently was told by them, as I grew up, they would support any profession I chose to pursue, but not teaching.

That does seem contradictory, but growing up, listening to dinner and other conversations they had about work, it made sense. They never complained about the ins and outs of teaching. It was just a job that seemed to me as a child, an awful lot of work for very little return.

Add to that, I could be a handful in the classroom. I mentioned Miss Pell a few days ago. She caught me during quiet reading time whispering jokes to a kid in the desk next to me. Once a month, the book club orders would come in, and she would give us quiet reading time to enjoy our purchase(s). I ordered, among other books, a joke book.

Called on the carpet, she asked me to come to the front of the class and share with the whole class. Not a problem. Guess she figured most kids would be nervous speaking in front of the class. I don’t know why she would have thought that about me. I am sure teachers talk, and think the last thing any of my teachers would say about me is that I am shy or not up to a challenge.

Soon my classmates and even Miss Pell were LTAO. I was sent back to my desk.

Thankfully all of my K-12 teachers found ways to channel my energy and wit in constructive ways. I still never considered it as a profession, even when I began college. My first thought was to be an architect that proved to not be what I could imagine myself doing day to day in life. Next came thoughts of being a business major, but that faded fast.

I always scheduled my classes as early as possible and as close together as possible in the day. That meant some days I could knock out 2 classes before noon. It didn’t take long to get from campus to home and by half past noon I could be barefoot, stuffing my face, and watching TV.

I got decent grades in college, 2.7 gpa, (3.7 as a grad student) but my dad worked close to home, came home from work one day for lunch and questioned me quite thoroughly as to why I was not at school.

My responses were all unsatisfactory, to him. The result of our discourse, when my classes were done, I was to either be in the library until at least 3 o’clock, or helping my mother in her class. She taught (and still subs!) at an elementary school.

I more often than not chose to help my mom in her class. It turned out to be quite interesting. Immediately I saw ways to organize her materials more efficiently, and how to better display her students work.

Hanging out in the lounge, talking with other teachers, those teachers would ask what I was studying. On occasion, they would ask me to come to their class and do a presentation on whatever subject it was they thought would be interesting for their students.

Sometime that quarter, during dinner, I announced I was applying for the teacher prep program. I don’t remember anticipating any kind of reaction, and there was none. They actually seemed non-plussed.

Now that’s a job I really can’t imagine doing, being a teacher of future teachers. How do you teach someone to be engaging to 20, or 30, or 50 or more, young people, and to effectively give those young people information, then effectively evaluate your effectiveness in delivering that information? The reality is you can’t. Those teachers of future teachers can only hope to inspire crazy, idealistic young adults to give it a go, and hope the smiles outnumber the tears.

I can’t imagine a profession where each day, each hour, each minute is loaded with so many variables that could all change in an instant.

When you deal with people, there is a certain degree of predictability/unpredictably. When you lean too hard on the predictability, that’s where you can get caught off guard.

Well, it took a while, but there it is. Lesson #1 Always be on guard, anticipate all the possibilities in a given moment.

That reminds me. One day, awhile back, a student asked to use the restroom. Sure I said. Another student who was engaged in independent work looked up, and watched the student going to the restroom exit the class. His stare lingered on the door for a moment then his gaze went up to the wall/ceiling line. After a few moments a quite mischievous grin crossed his face. “Don’t do it!” I said. Snapped out of his thoughts, he looked at me quite surprised. “Don’t do what?” he asked, puzzled. “Don’t do what you were thinking about!” I responded. A slight grin crosses his face, “How do you know what I was thinking?” he asked. “I just know! Go back to work.”

Lesson #2. Speak firmly, and with definitiveness.

Here’s another gem of a moment regarding lesson #2.

I’m at my desk, using scissors for some reason. Students are working independently when a young lady decides she needed to speak with me. She reaches the desk and asked, “Do you have scissors?” “No,” I reply (the lesson did not require scissors.) She looked as my hand holding the scissors, her face crossed with disappointment and confusion. “I’m sorry, I answered your second question,” I said. Disappointment left her face, confusion remained. “Ask your question again.” I prompt “Do you have scissors?” she asked again, hopefully. “Yes,” I said. “May I borrow them?” “No, I was trying to save your time by answering your second question first. Please go back to your seat and get back to work.”

Lessons learned from working with young people will continue, but not tomorrow.

Thank you, whoever you are, that are reading. I hope you’re amused at the least, and maybe learn a little more about yourself, hopefully. That is what I try to do every day. Share my thoughts and perspectives and hope they affect people.


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