Have you ever made bread? It’s quite a lot of work. The mixing, the kneading, the rising, the hoping that the loaves will rise and be light and fluffy, tasting like summer. And in your culinary efforts, as you are taking the loaves out of the oven, the air redolent with the fruits of your labor… have you ever noticed the carefully measured salt still sitting on the counter?
The end of the school year is upon us, and once again I am torn between maniacal laughter because I will be sending the wee delinquents on their way, sadness that I won’t teach some of them ever again, and absolute bleak despair because I fear so many of my lessons have missed the mark. I’m sending my students out into the world without salt.
It is a time fraught with sentimental nostalgia for the potential of September, and concern for the reality of June. Did I teach them anything? Have I made any kind of impact on their lives? Did they hear me swearing at them under my breath?
I recently asked my grade eleven students to write to me, to let me know their thoughts on my lessons about apocalyptic literature. We have read Brave New World, and Oryx and Crake. I have ranted about Wall-E and Tom Cruise movies. I have talked about conspiracy theories, and the zombie apocalypse. I have waved my arms and stood on my head and begged them to respond, to argue with me, to disagree, to breathe…
“For the past few days my teacher… Broadbent… has been droning on about world issues. The questions she has asked have floated over my head like hundreds of buzzing mosquitoes…”
I suppose I should be thrilled with the use of metaphor, and the correct spelling of mosquitoes since one of my favorite quotes is from a student writing about camping: “It is just terrible to be ate alive by misquotes.” Yes. Yes it is. Being ate alive is terrible no matter how accurate the quoting.
“The things that we’ve been going over for the past few days make me feel like… blaaaahhgg.”
These kinds of responses are the carefully measured salt still sitting on the counter after the loaves are already in the oven, realizing too late that all my efforts are bland and tasteless. It looks like bread, but no one wants a slice.
This week I have had kids tell me I gave them too much work, too little feedback, too much writing, not enough writing, not enough choice, too many smiley faces on their work, too many expectations, too many questions, not enough time… my head, and my heart, are in a whirl. I spend hours… hours… trying to find things that will intrigue them. Video clips, articles, songs, images… I have integrated facebook, ipads, twitter, youtube and yes, even Duck Dynasty into my lessons but still they stare at me, complaining that they aren’t entertained, that none of it is relevant, that I am as inspiring as a droning cloud of mosquitoes.
Sometimes I simply don’t know what else to do. I have a curriculum, I have outcomes, I have students. And never the twain shall meet. I like to think I have a creative brain and a varied toolkit of strategies which I sometime deliver accompanied by singing, terrible foreign accents, illustrations and rap. And yes, I’ve been criticized for the accents. Zumtimez zere is just no pleazink people!
I lost my mind one day because a kid yawned. Sitting in the front row, not five feet from me. Not a delicate, behind the palm kind of yawn. No. A full stretch, jaw-cracking, howling yawn right in the middle of my lesson. The lesson I had spent several hours concocting. With video and surround sound. (Ok, maybe it didn’t have surround sound, but it did when I roasted him for yawning all over my best intentions). I indicated to him… with the vein in my neck pulsing wildly… that he was rude.
“So, like… I’m not allowed to yawn? What? I’m bored.”
Over the last few days I have talked to a young lady who thought she might be pregnant, another one who couldn’t decide if she wanted to pierce her nipple or her lip, another one whose boyfriend is an asshole, and a young man who promised he would no longer sneak out the back door of my classroom during class. Instead, he snuck the projector remote with the laser pointer and tracked little red dots all over me while I was teaching and I didn’t catch on for a good five minutes. I have intervened with a student who was cutting, another who needed a job, another who needed a letter for his parole officer. I have spent hours and hours marking, and planning and worrying about my students. And so have all the other teachers in my school. All the boring teachers, because I’m not so vain as to think I’m the only one worthy of the title. Most Boring Teacher of the Year. It’s what we all strive for.
I love my job, I love these kids, I get so tired of the varied rants about teachers not caring, not working hard enough, not being there enough. Are these kids asking their moms if they should pierce the lip or the nipple? I hope so. And I hope we’re on the same page, the mom and me, with our answers, because judging by the tattoos I see marching up young ladies’ legs and the bolts of metal I see sticking out of their faces I have to wonder. But I’m just a teacher. And a boring one at that.
I begin to fear that I will never keep their attention for more than three minutes. Unless I text them my lessons. Shakespeare in less than 140 characters. Get it, characters? What? Sorry, lame twitter humor. No wonder you’re bored.
It isn’t all torture, though. We laugh a lot, my students and I, in between the bouts of apoplectic ennuie. They tell me funny stories, and we have rap battles that I usually win. (wink, wink) A couple of sweeties left a note on my desk which read: “You weren’t here LBro, so we left some madlove for you!” I taped it to my wall. It was covered with smiley faces and little hearts, and that is enough to make me show up again come Monday morning. There’s only a few weeks left ‘til summer vacation when I will spend many happy hours planning a plethora of boredoms with which to regale my new charges. In September I will once again give them too much work , and not enough, and too many questions, and not enough, and too many expectations, and not enough, and… thank god for smiley faces. 🙂
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