I cry a lot.
As in, pretty much daily.
I’ve not been that girl up to this point in my life. I can schedule it fairly well and I’m a quiet crier, so that works well for everyone. I have people in my life who continually remind me that crying is not a sign of weakness, and that I am still the badass I hope to be.
But that’s how I feel about teaching. I cry about it.
Not once has a student hurt my feelings or made me so angry that the tears showed up. It’s been concern for whether I’m good enough, if they have food or power, or my replaying of yet another conversation about immigration and did-I-handle-it-well-enough-because-my-GOD-it-has-to-stop. I cry picturing them watch dads pack to leave for Guatemala and then bravely come to school the next day only to be yelled at for not having a pencil and HOW COULD THEY BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE? WELL?! I have more questions than answers, and, while I don’t feel like a fraud I don’t want to ever feel like I’m finished becoming a teacher.
Because If I do, then I think I’ve failed them. I’m already terrible at grading. I let it pile up and stress out about it. I hate tests, although I get the value in assessments. I forget to double-check their uniforms sometimes. But if I stop being their teacher, then I’ve given up on them and I didn’t sign up to bail. There are enough other adults who will do that, or who already have.
I don’t teach for the summers off. First of all, I teach at a year-round school, but we do still have a long summer. I also work in the summer and barely started teaching. I’m brand new. I don’t do it for the hours. I’m not a morning person and there is no office door to close and shut down—that’s new to me. And loud to me. So loud. They don’t stop talking. It’s fascinating, really. I haven’t ever chosen a job for the money.
I teach both because of a couple of terrible teachers I had and wonderful ones. Both had a massive impact on who I am. The wonderful ones have actually become friends of mine as adults, a fact I am incredibly grateful for. It’s a damn good feeling to be able to tell someone you’re doing something because they mattered to you as a teenager, and still do. They still make a difference, because I got to keep them and they overshadowed any negative experience. Both are coaches, and I believe that has something to do with their approach, at least to me.
The terrible ones told me I was a bad writer. They said I didn’t understand poetry. I was allowed to think for myself at home and was [allegedly] a respectful kid, so it was very confusing to me that English would be the subject that I would struggle most years. That I wouldn’t be allowed to take Creative Writing because I wasn’t creative enough or a writer made me angry, and it hurt. I wanted to be a writer for a living until a high school teacher said to pick a new career. I should’ve told my parents, but I let a teacher tell me who I was. I thought she knew.
I want to know them, as much as they’ll let me. And if they won’t or can’t, they can come back as long as I’m here. There were teachers who saw and knew me, but I listened to the wrong one.
Now, a list of the most frequently said phrases that I say. Some are not surprising; all are true [in no particular order]:
· Pull yourselves together!
· Hallway procedures—you guys know this.
· It’s—insert date—you know the rule.
· Take your hood off.
· Do not play fight.
· We don’t run indoors.
· I hope you do become a rapper; you better learn how to write.
· I trust you.
· I’ll help you, but you have to help yourself FIRST.
You are not dumb, this is hard.