I was in the Safeway checkout line the other day, when the cashier asked if Monday was a holiday for me (he knows I’m a teacher). I said that it was and boy did I need a break, I’ve had enough of kids for a week. He smiled good-naturedly and said that maybe I was in the wrong profession if I didn’t like kids. Ha ha.
Anyway, this little innocuous interaction has had me thinking the last few days and wishing I could clarify for him what I meant, since I was only exaggerating. But going back and having a conversation in the grocery check out line seems like overkill.
So here goes.
Teaching is hard. Yeah, waaaaa waaaaa you big cry baby. You’re over paid, only work 9.5 months out of the year and foist your pc Commie agenda on kids, so it’s all just fun and games for you.
Well, yeah. But it’s still really really hard. (Bwahahahaha! Double entendre! No prudes in middle school, baby!)
Kids are exhausting. Do you have children? Don’t they exhaust you? Well, think how draining it would be to have to deal with 30 of them at once! I usually like kids, I believe in them, want them to grow up to be self-actualized, responsible happy people. Looking out at a class of 12 year old boys, sometimes I have to have faith and know that it will happen one day. Just not anytime soon. How do they grow up to be hard working members of society? I don’t know. As they say in my church, it’s a mystery.
Recently, after over a month of studying the rise of Islam (as is required in seventh grade in California), a month of reading, doing assignments, watching a documentary, making art, writing our names in Arabic, etc., a student asked me the other day what was a “mos-Q.” I wanted to cry.
Then the very next class period this happened.
“Hey, Ms. G!” a boy shouts out while supposedly working on an assignment. “Spell icup.”
Without batting an eyelash I respond, “Dude. You’re supposed to be working, and what, do you think I was born yesterday?” That’s not the end of it.
“You want her to spell what?”
And they’re off, and I’m trying to get them to come back to me, don’t go towards the light. Come back! Did I mention this was 6*, the last period of the day? Did I mention this class is mostly boys? Did I mention that by the time they leave at 3:21, I’m exhausted? Emotionally, mentally, physically? Did I mention that by Friday, we’re all hanging on by our fingernails? Ditto for Spring Break and summer vacation. I’ve earned my days off.
I am not only a “teacher,” trying to help them learn about adverbs, writing, the characteristics of dystopian fiction, the rise of Islam, the contributions of Muslims to world history, etc. I’m a counselor, nurse, cheerleader, referee, guard. I’m a relentness nag about why isn’t there a capital letter ANYWHERE on this paper?
????!!!! (<—-this is overkill, only one is necessary).
I have students who NEVER (hyperbole) complete any work, and I have to get to the bottom of this, what’s going on? I have students who only show up half the time, and I have to figure out how to get them caught up and get them to still care about what’s happening in the classroom, never mind the drama and any nightmares happening at home. I have to cajole, bribe, threaten, figure out what motivates them best. Doing this day in and day out for the 100+ kids on my roster is exhausting.
I have to patiently explain to parents that yes, their student might have put a lot of time and effort into the project, but it was plagiarized, so it doesn’t really count. Or no, I don’t think it’s unfair I confiscated their child’s test when they were talking, because I have warned them many times. No, I’m not teaching your child that Muhammad is God, I can’t convert anyone to Islam since I’m Catholic. No, I will not answer “non-higher level thinking” questions like what page are we on? It’s not disrespectful, it’s not me not doing my job, it’s me teaching your kid to be responsible for himself.
“I’m done!” a student shouts out. (12 year-olds have very few filters.) I was going to send this particular boy on an errand to the office when he finished his assignment, so he was just letting me know he was done with his work.
“I’m ready for you now, Ms. G.” Deflated sigh. I’ll just ignore that.
“That sounded…wrong.” Yes, indeed. Just leave it.
“Oh, my God! I didn’t mean it that way!” his head drops down to the desk in an overly dramatic fashion. Now other heads have perked up, curious. Was that a s-e-x-u-a-l type of joke? I have to tell them that no, I’m not into 12 year old boys (as anyone knows, I prefer them male pale and stale), and as soon as I say that I realize that taken out of context it sounds really really bad. Someone’s going to go home and relay that to their parents and yes, it will sound really really bad. The kids are still clamoring.
I’m sure they go home and tell their parents I’m always yelling at them, I refuse to answer their questions, let them tell “Yo Mama” jokes.
Let me explain the last one. It was the last ten minutes of class, and the kids were pretty much done with work, class, school. Gauging the temperature, I let them clean up and offered a prize for the best “Yo Mama” joke. On the way out, a kid told me, “that was the funnest thing I’ve done in a long time.” I’m sure there are parents, and principals, who wouldn’t understand.
But sometimes a teacher’s gotta do what a teacher’s gotta do. Don’t judge til you’ve walked a mile in my shoes. And erased penis pictures from text books. And listened to half a class sniff up mucous for the last 55 minutes because they don’t know what tissue is. Or breath in “Eau du Seventh Grade Boy” for a period, because they have PE before my class. Or never ever be able to say the word “balls” in any context whatsoever, without someone losing their mind. Or have seen the look of surprise in a boy’s eyes when he learns that he has the highest GPA in the class, a surprise so great he can barely respond to your offer of a high five.
Yeah, kids are just plain exhausting. In a mostly good way.