Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Back to School" Proudly published by the Kern Valley Sun

This week I had four different students tell me that they thought I was a "cool," "popular" teacher. Obviously, I have never shown them the above picture of myself. As you can see, I am one classy lady.

I am a complete geek. Unfortunately, it's not in that, "I'm a geek, and I started my own multi-million dollar computer company" way that's really popular right now. I also wasn't a geek in the "I have poor hygiene, and other students throw their lunches at me" sort of way, thank goodness.

I was the kind of geek who didn't watch R-Rated movies, looked a lot like Velma from Scooby Doo (I still do, in fact), really liked hanging out with their parents, was shocked by cussing, read 19th century novels for fun, spoke like a walking dictionary, and who teachers always really liked. Ergo, I became an English teacher.

When I got to college, I learned that all of the above traits were actually strengths, which was a relief.

Do the kids who were "cool," or "popular" in high school ever become teachers? It always seems to be the very uncool people who were a little too institutionalized for their own good who become teachers. There are not a lot of rebels in our crowd.

Anyway, there are only a few months of school left, Huzzah! The following article is one I published in the Kern Valley Sun at the beginning of this school year.

Disclaimer to any of my high school students who read this or any of my other teaching related blog entries: I love you dearly and if I seem to write as if you irritate me or as if you are not very smart, please remember that I am using hyperbole. If you don't know what hyperbole is, it would be a good word to look up.

School is starting again in a matter of weeks. I believe I am ready to embark on my fourth year teaching English and Drama at the high school, and as I sat in my classroom this week, trying to get started on the mountain of work waiting for me, I reflected on some of the unique traits of the students who will be placed under my care this year.

High school students are great question-askers. They love to ask questions. They don’t usually want or use the answers, but they do love to question. On occasion, students will walk into my room at the beginning of class and ask my favorite question.

“Mrs. Hughes,” they will say, with big eyes and in all seriousness, “Are we doing anything important today?” I love this question because it really makes me wonder what answer they are expecting me to give. They usually ask this when they want to get out of class for some really important reason, like building a homecoming float that their class should have been working on after school, or going to the gym to play Dodge-Ball with a P.E. class.

I wonder if they are secretly hoping that I will say, “No, not really. In fact, I intended to waste everyone’s time, myself included, with some inane lesson plan about morphemes. But your question has shown me that my planned lesson and its corresponding state standard is so NOT important that we should ALL go down to P.E. and play Dodge-Ball together! The P.E. teachers would love that!”

If I said that, I don’t think my students would bat an eye. In fact, I think they might whisper happily to one another, with a knowing glance, “She’s finally come to her senses. We’ve worn her down, and she can finally see that all those silly English things she’s always trying to make us learn are really very pointless.”
But instead of fulfilling whatever expectation they may have had for my answer to that question, I usually just smile, and say, “Yes, what we’re doing is very important, why don’t you take your seat and get out a pencil!” This makes them groan and squirm, but soon we are on our way to learning about the amazing world of morphemes.

Now, like every teacher, I do occasionally become sick and when this happens, I do my best to drag myself to school and to look as un-sick as possible. But somehow, in every class period, students who have never noticed anything for the entire school year, such as what page we’re supposed to be on, will usually notice my haggard appearance. That’s when I get my other favorite question.

“Mrs. Hughes,” a student will say in a concerned voice, drawing from the years of tact their parents tried to teach them, “You look terrible, what’s the matter with you? Are you sick or something? You look like Death!” Usually, this question comes up at least once per class period when I am ill, sometimes twice, if I have some tardy students who missed the question the first time. Again, I am not really certain what response these lovely darlings are hoping to receive from their inquiry. I usually just grimly smile, and say, “Yes, but I’ll be better soon.”

I like to assume that they’re asking out of some vestige of politeness.

It’s harder to assume this when the student refuses to drop the subject, and makes explanatory comments, like, “I noticed because your voice is all scratchy and you seem crabby, are you crabby today?” That’s when I usually show them just how crabby I am by assigning some sentence diagramming so that they will drop it.

Oh, high-schoolers. I cannot wait for another year of your clever antics and tactless questions. We will have some good times. We will have some bad times. And hopefully, someone, somewhere, will learn something, even if it’s only me.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I enjoyed reading your post. I was a geek, too, in my younger days--the kind of geek that you've described yourself. I loved my English teacher. My brain cells were just being uncooperative at the time, which made learning very difficult. That's why, now that I'm an aspiring writer, I struggle every step of the way with my writings. For heaven's sake, I still don't understand basic sentence diagraming! Such a sad thing for an adult to say, eh? I do understand it at the time of instruction. However, if you ask me to demonstrate, explain, or to do it on my own, then I'm completely lost. (Tee hee, hee.)

    Good luck with school. Your kids need you. At least, you're very diplomatic when dealing with your students' annoying questions.