what is it that i need to speak in complete sentences?
Watching angela teach and listening in on people’s conversations about their classes, it makes me think that we all have different classrooms. and that this is necessarily a good thing. though i’m sure our bosses would like to think that they have a semblance of control over what and how we teach in our english classes. i have this strange image of all of us teachers moving exactly at the same time, our mouths forming the exact same words in the exact intonation —- very orwell or philipp k dick.
it’s observation time so we’re all hyper-aware of our actions. i wonder if its that fact that i’m naturally more neurotic that makes me so anxious. but i know that my inordinate fear of not being good enough is getting in the way of actually engaging my students, of risking connection. it also hasn’t helped my stomach, it churns more often now. and i don’t remember ever being acidic until i started teaching.
though this is my second time to be a new teacher, it isn’t necessarily easier. i don’t really think teaching experience is a cumulative thing, meaning my two years in the high school don’t translate to being better in the classroom. whenever you start in a new place and perhaps every time you begin a new classroom, you start from zero — perhaps the time to get back on the proverbial horse is what decreases as you stay longer in a school. even if the subject matter is the same, we’re dealing with people and we’re also dealing with ourselves. though i’m sure there are patterns we eventually recognize and rely on, people are still people. there is no real preparation for that, except perhaps a belief in yourself, a life-long project. i may be a person of habit and a snob (larry likes to remind me that he and i would never be friends if he didn’t approach me.), but i think my being a teacher has made me that much better in adapating to people. hopefully, i’ll be able to meet a person without baggage (my own! my own! not theirs! i love rifling through other people’s bags) and finally see them for who they are. and only constant exposure to people will refine the ability to do that. i think i reveal how anti-social i am.
but this matters. teaching really matters to me. i remember after having found out that i had lost my job because of a bad rating from my department chair, politics notwithstanding, that i was just broken. how could something that i loved doing so much be something i couldn’t do well?
i can’t help comparing this to my own short lived football career (hahaha!) but i know that that was still my fault because i had let my coach and his criticism get to me. i allowed it to paralyze me. and i loved the sport, i knew exactly what i was. i loved the knowledge that i wasn’t necessarily the star of the team (less pressure on me!), but i was valuable.
but i did let a bad rating get to me. i didn’t jump back into school life after i left the high school. and now, i realize that those were horribly silent years, years i knew that i could have used to actually do something else. instead of staring at what i had just lost. so that still was my fault.
so how does this affect me now? well, i’m not doing fabulously as a teacher. more often than not, i find myself floundering. i’d like to think though that the ability to know that i am not doing well at least tells me what and how i can do better. so i am putting in the work.
but in spite of everything, i like remembering what my first football coach said about what was most valuable about me — that i was all heart. though i have been chastising myself that i am not a natural, i realize that this is the closest i can get to it.
with that, i can’t help getting on my soap box (or reveal that i am on one in the first place.) if you have someone who says that they want to be a teacher, let them. that they want to be a teacher for some reason, let it be selfish at first, allow them the time to work it out. you will encounter some bad apples, but really, the love for learning and knowledge is just as vital as whatever you can say is natural ease in the classroom. because they will want to get better —- and they will learn the method, the tricks of the trade.
but they have to want it. and maybe all the shit (that which is not self-inflicted of course!) that i encounter is really a question of “do you want this?”
i should say that i was lucky that the people i’ve met while teaching has made me better, both as a person and as a teacher. that their experience has made them patient enough to allow me some leeway to make a fool of myself. that their own set of lovely people has made sharing what they have learned a natural thing
and it is because of them AND my students that has made loving this job possible. this job really is a commitment, and you do have to decide everyday that i will continue to love you in spite of how much you may hurt me. because i know that my happiness is in doing this job well. that at least for the next couple of years, this is where my heart resides.
in the end, i go back to love.
Towards not being
anyone else’s center
A wanting to love: not
to lean over towards
an other, and fall,
but feel within one
a flexible steel
to the spine but
longer, from which to stretch;
grave springboard; the outflying spirit’s