I don’t know if you noticed… I didn’t immediately “deal” with the fact that my blog has suddenly gained a bigger audience. I knew it was coming. I received the e-mail telling me I would be featured on Freshly Pressed a few days before it actually happened, and since this is Round Two for me (um… what?!), I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Lots of Likes. Lots of comments. I’d begin with all the good intentions of replying to all of them, and then I’d give up and just start hitting “approve.” Lots of new followers. Lots of people clicking around my blog, liking and commenting on other posts, too. And that’s exactly what happened.
Knowing it was coming didn’t mean that I was ready for it. I watched it all unfold in front of me, but like last time, I kept myself a little detached. Last time I had a very good reason for my detachment. This time? This time I think I was just intimidated by the idea of engaging in all the attention, discussion, and general blogging explosion. I’m still coming to grips with the idea that my blog now has an audience. Not just a few random people here and there, but a steady stream of visitors, complete strangers who are invested in hearing what I have to say. In the past two weeks my blog has gained almost 400 more followers (hello to all of you!). I knew it was coming. My mind is still blown.
I know what you’re doing. It’s nothing new. You think you’re distracting me, skillfully diverting the teacher’s attention away from the lesson and starting me on some tangential discussion. You think you’re somehow “winning” because we didn’t get as far as I’d planned in the lesson.
(photo credit: anime-girl963)
I love it. You think I haven’t seen this before? I know who you are. I know what to look for, when to indulge you, and when to steer us back on course. Don’t you understand? I want nothing more than to engage these discussions, to embrace your questions, and to revel in the spontaneity of learning!
Yes, learning. Believe it or not, this is when the “shaping lives” part of my job takes place. This is when I can talk to you about things that are real and relevant to you right now. Not that my planned lessons are irrelevant – they’re important for reasons you probably haven’t even considered. But the tangents are important, too. This is when you get to see me as a real person, as someone who might have something of relevance to say. This is when I get to see your personalities and quirks, which actually helps me plan lessons down the road. The better I know you, the better I can teach you. Besides, you hold on to these tangents, even if you don’t realize it.
Katie was so poised. She stood with perfect posture behind the podium. Her demeanor was sweet and kind, and the respect the students felt towards her was palpable. They quieted immediately at her first hint of starting class. As she taught with gentle authority, her own interest in the topic intrinsically engaged the students. She was alert and vibrant, but still calm. She almost never moved from behind that podium, except maybe to write something on the board. Her students listened attentively, actively responded to her questions, and took her words to heart.
I’m not her. I learned a lot from Katie in the months when I student taught under her supervision, but we’re very different teachers. I can’t stand still. I move. I pace. I wander between the desks. I write on the board frequently. The only time I’m immobile in front of a class is when I sit on the stool I place next to the podium, but I never stay there for long. Katie’s voice was one of quiet confidence, while I speak with a voice trained to be heard in the back row of the balcony. She would laugh and crack jokes, but she was always so sweet and gentle even then. I’m more sarcastic. I banter. Instead of praising Romeo and Juliet as a grand, sweeping love story, I make fun of the characters for behaving like stupid teenagers. Students know that I care about them, but they also know I like to joke around.
This is the post that I’ve been waiting to write. I was afraid to even begin typing it before all the official i’s had been dotted and t’s crossed, but a few days ago I signed a piece of paper and was handed a building key, so I can now make the official announcement.
I’m going to be a teacher again. A real teacher, with my own students and lesson plans in my content area and mounds of papers to grade. I’m going to be standing in front of a classes that I’ll actually be able to get to know and watch progress. I’m going to be frustrated by students who don’t listen, excited by students who “get” it, and amused by the antics of teens of all types.
(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)
On a drive with my husband this weekend, the conversation turned to the striking fast food workers asking for their pay to be raised to $15/hour, which would effectively double their current income. When a current-events topic like that comes up, I’m usually able to go on a rant about my opinion while still maintaining a fairly good mood. This time, though, my thoughts weighed on me, making me quiet and, for lack of a better adjective, tired. My husband managed to voice my thoughts for me as we drove, though.
“I was thinking about it,” he said, “and have you ever made that much money teaching?”
The signs may not be obvious, but they’re there for the keen observer. I haven’t written a book review since April. I’ve been much less consistent at replying to comments. My posts have dropped from twice a week to once a week, and this one is late. The previous two posts were both responses to the Weekly Writing Challenge instead of the brainchild of my own ideas… and this one is, too. Sort of. I’ll explain what I mean in a bit.
Waiting for the light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
All these signs point to one fact. I’ve lost my blogging drive. I still enjoy the act of writing. I’m still floored by the numbers of followers I have – even after sifting through the spam followers that worked their way into the mix. I still feel like I have something to give to the world. However, I’m realizing that blogging was my place-holder for my real mission, and right now, the place-holder is starting to feel a bit flimsy.
“It’s kind of hard here, isn’t? You have to figure out a lot on your own, don’t you?” The other sub was older than me, in her forties at least, but she was looking to me for advice. She’s right; we subs aren’t given much guidance, but I hadn’t really thought about it until she started asking her questions. I know how to manage a classroom, even if I don’t know the particulars of school policies, so I just do what comes naturally. And between all the moving, subbing, and starting over, I’ve had a lot of practice at making a good first impression on a room full of teenagers.
I connect well with my students. It’s probably my biggest strength in the classroom and a trait that has carried me well over the years. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked into a new class for the first time, either as a sub or as a long-term teacher. While I’ve never really had the opportunity to see if I have staying power beyond one year, I do know that I can make a good first impression.
So in the spirit of the Weekly Writing Challenge, this advice goes out to my fellow substitutes, or to anyone else who may need to walk to into a high school classroom for the first time.
1. Come in with a smile. Now, I’ve heard the quips about not letting students see you smile in the first week, and I understand the reasoning. Students need to know to take you seriously. They need to know you mean business. But I’ve learned that I can be firm without being grumpy. A smile lets the teens know I enjoy my job, and I enjoy sharing a room with them. That’s important.
One of the things I enjoy about subbing is exploring the classroom walls. Every teacher puts a unique touch on their classroom. Some cover their walls in motivational posters, others in student work, and still others in subject-specific information such as math equations or proof-reading rules. The classroom I’m in right now doesn’t have any windows, so someone painted a picture of a window for the teacher to hang next to his desk. The teacher I subbed for yesterday decorated her room with posters from movies like True Grit and The Great Gatsby. On slower sub days, I sometimes entertain myself by trying to guess each teacher’s personality and quirks based simply on the room decor.
Edgar Allan Poe, as created by Mark Summers for Barnes & Noble (click the image for more if his work!)
I already have a collection of things I keep for the day when I can decorate my own classroom again. I have two different One Page Books Shakespeare posters, the prizes pieces from my first teaching job. At a school rummage sale, I also scored four of those giant, framed, stylized images of authors that had once graced the walls of a Barnes & Noble store. Someday I hope they will grace the walls of my classroom.
Today’s post comes courtesy of a question that appeared on my Facebook news feed, from Marcus Buckingham:
What was your all-time favorite job and why?
If it isn’t your current job, why not?
It’s a timely prompt for me, because I came to my all-time favorite job when I was in a situation not too different from what I’m facing now. I’d been subbing for a year and a half, struggling with my identity as a teacher and frustrated that I couldn’t find full-time work in the field that I loved. Then I was asked to cover a maternity leave fill-in April through June at LCA, an upper-demographic private school in Massachusetts. I worked there for only two months, but I still consider it the best time of my career and the job that turned the corner in my professional confidence.
I remember waking up eager to get out of bed and start my day, instead of groaning about having to go to work. I remember the faces of those students even better than some students I’ve taught for a full year. I remember the affirmation of a career I loved, the acceptance of professional peers who became my friends, and the joy of being in a room full of exceptional teenagers.
I’m short. Five feet two inches, to be exact. That’s 1.57 m., for my metric-minded readers.
In terms of body-image and whatnot, I’m fine with it. I always have been. I’ve never wished for a few more inches for appearances’ sake. I’m good with my 5’2″ view of the world.
Seriously, I’ve never had an issue with my height (or lack thereof), even when I went to high school with boys who towered over me. Our small school boasted a nationally ranked basketball team, so most of the boys in my class easily surpassed 6 feet and some were pushing 7 feet. My closest tall friend was actually a 6’4″ baseball player, but I also counted among my friends basketball boys like the 6’6″ British guy and the 6’9″ Lithuanian. Several guys literally had to tilt their heads to the side just to walk through a regular doorway. I remember walking out of the cafeteria once behind one of the tallest basketball players (a 6’11” Nigerian) and realizing I was disturbingly close to being eye-level with his belt.