Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"Oh, no, not AGAIN!"

That was Darryl's reaction this morning when I walked into his kindergarten classroom. Then he started crying. OK, granted, Darryl is a "special" kid, but that didn't exactly make me feel spectacular.

I am a long, long, long way from being a successful teacher, but now I'm one step closer to being a successful blogger -- I was asked to contribute to the "New Teacher Diaries" at Edwize, the blog of the United Federation of Teachers, our teachers' union. (Speaking of which, I got my optical benefits voucher in the mail today -- thanks for the new glasses, UFT!)

So now that I know this blog has a wider audience than just my parents and a few friends, there's this temptation to whitewash things the way I do in the hallway when another teacher says, "How's it going?" but clearly isn't all that invested in the answer. (Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just broke down sobbing and confessed: "Things are terrible, please help me!")

But I started this blog to capture a true, honest picture of my first year as a teacher. One of the first things you're told as a new teacher is that all new teachers feel stressed, overwhelmed, panicked and doubtful about the whole idea of teaching. And one of the first things you go on to learn as a new teacher is that you don't care that all new teachers feel stressed, overwhelmed, panicked and doubtful about the whole idea of teaching; all you care about is how you ended up in this classroom with 20 kids who are doggedly trying to kill each other and get your attention all at the same time.

I think the thing about great teaching, the reason that so many people think that teaching isn't exactly a job for the intellectually elite, is that great teaching looks effortless. Truly great teachers employ smooth segues and redirects, stimulating lessons that engage every child, behavioral management techniques that make the classroom run itself.

It's rare to find a first-year teacher that is truly great; and I certainly am not one. On some days, I'm an OK teacher; today I made my kindergarteners laugh by pointing out that when I write my story about going to the park and I draw just my face without arms or legs, oops, I am not done with my picture!

On other days, though, I'm an abysmal failure as a teacher. Instead of hearing the "excited workshop hum," like the wildly optimistic Teachers' College curriculum says I should, I hear sniping and hurt voices. Instead of the room being "on fire with energy" (oh, Teachers' College, how you toy with my tender teaching emotions), the room is on fire with anarchy.

Teaching is the hardest thing I've ever done. Harder than running the marathon, harder than overcoming relationship phobia, harder than watching the Mets' ugly downfall. (OK, I'm still not ready to talk about that.)

So let's lay it out on the table: Was I secretly a little bit pleased when my morning kindergarteners collapsed on top of each other in a stampede to give me goodbye hugs? Of course.

But right now, would I still trade that for the safety of a cubicle in an office where nobody would complain that he hit me first? Well...yes.

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