Confessions of a Former Teacher
Once upon a time, I was an elementary school teacher. I taught in the inner city of New Orleans in the years before hurricane Katrina came along. There was so much to love about being a teacher. I. I loved being in charge of 25 bouncy little people everyday. I loved to teach kindergarten and first grade because the kids are so cute, lovable and funny at that age. Kids do indeed say the darnedest things. They might have driven me crazy on a daily basis but by the time I got home after a long hard day, I was already missing them.
I admit that I have always been a bit of a class clown and that didn't change when I became a teacher. I was forever telling them tall tales and fooling them. I convinced them that I had eyes in the back of my head. I told them that every teacher and every mom has them. Then I challenged the disbelievers to go and ask their moms if I was telling the truth. Sure enough, they reported back to me that their moms had told them that I was indeed telling them the truth. But I confess, I didn't tell my students that the glass on the framed picture behind my desk provided a great reflective surface that let me see what they were doing when my back was turned.
One of my greatest strength as a teacher was that my sense of humor was firmly intact. One teacher advised me that I should put the fear in my students, to be strict and let them know who the boss was from day one. But that just isn't my style.I found that the strictest teachers were also the ones who were most stressed out and the unhappiest. They also had the unhappiest students. I prefer a lively class where fun and laughter make learning fun. Sure, I had my class rules. But my children were generally well behaved and cooperative. Nobody wanted to get a time out and miss the fun of whatever we were doing.
Now, back the the fun stories of being a teacher! I enjoyed teaching my students and hearing their thoughts on the world and the things we were studying. I didn't want my student to just memorize things, I wanted them to understand the meaning of what they were learning.I wanted them to think and I wanted to hear their thought on things too.This lead to some of my funnier moments in teaching.
One day, I was teaching my class the meaning of the words in the Pledge of Allegiance and we came to the phrase "One nation, under God, indivisible...". So I asked them what the word "indivisible" meant. A sweet girl named Brandy confidently said "indivisible means that people can't see you. We are all under God and He is invisible". Wow, from the mouths of babes. It was both funny and profound and I praised her for the smart thinking that she put into her answer. Then we had lesson about invisible and indivisible..
While going over the names of shapes one day, we came across the normal shapes like circle, triangle, square and rectangle but there was also a picture of a prism. I told the class that it was a prism and one of my boys blurted out " I know what a prism is. They put bad guys in prism!".
There were also times when their comments were funny but also a bit shocking. While reading one of the "Little House on the Prairie" books aloud to my students, I came across a sentence about Laura and Mary going to the garden with a hoe. Lakita piped up " Mama said our neighbor is a hoe but my neighbor don't have a garden". Oh my!! Try explaining the difference between those two words to young kids. I had vision of my students going home and telling their parents that they learned all about hoes today at school.
Whenever I had to correct my pupils or warn them about their behavior, I tempered it with humor.I wouldn't just say "you need to sit down and stay there". I would say "introduce you behind to your chair and make it a lasting relationship" which made them giggle, but they got the point. Kids listen better and cooperate more when you can give them behavior reminders that are humorous. It avoids power struggles and defiance issues. They get the point and respond better.
I would often tell my kids that they needed to behave and follow the class rules. After telling Giovanni for the third time that he needed to behave, he looked at me and said "But I AM being have". I would also tell them they needed to stop cutting up in class. Michael, the class tattler took this to heart and wrote me a note telling me "Josh is being bad.He is cut ten up".
Kids can also take things quite literally. While studying space, the moon and the stars, I told them that we could land on the moon but we could not land on the sun. So I asked if they knew why we couldn't land on the sun. Gina's answer was " You can't land on the sun cuz it has all of those pointy things on it". I was puzzled for about 3 seconds and then realized that based upon the way that kids always draw the sun, they just assumed it was a very pointy surface.
I would have loved to teach forever. My children made me feel like a rock star because they would burst into cheers when I went to the playground to claim them each morning. I love reading to them with them, all gathered around me, vying for the best spot next to me. At recess they loved to follow me and all wanted to hold my hand so finally I had to get them to compromise and let ten of them to hold one of my fingers. Alex stole my heart because he held onto my dress and announced "I'll just be your remora, like the shark and the remora". (We had just done a unit on sea life and my children had been impressed with the remora and how it stayed attached to the shark).
It has been over 10 years since my health problems put an end to my teaching career. I often think about my students, wonder where they are now and can't help but hope that some of them remember me and look back with laughter at all of the fun we had in room 211.