Friday, October 19, 2007

Looking out for Number 1

Teachers burn out. Teachers turn cynical. Teachers start treating their job as a job, swiping in and out at the bell. Teachers become union people, thinking about their paycheck and job security. There are a million ways that teachers go bad. I'm on a mission to keep it positive, to focus on the students, to avoid the pitfalls of the profession.

Are you, too, wondering how to keep the flame of idealism lit? Just follow these steps:

1. Walk to work. Or take public transportation. Or, if you must drive, park several blocks away and walk from there. Become one with the city, the neighborhood. The sounds, the smells, these are the things you want to preserve. Say hello to the dog walkers. To the students showing up early for before-school activities. Feed a squirrel. Read the graffiti and see if you recognize the handwriting. Clear your head. Think of all those papers you neglected to mark last night and come up with an excuse for the students. Make it a personal excuse. They love hearing things like, I had a fight with my girlfriend/wife/lover.

2. Show up to work early. Avoid the teachers in the main office that arrive right before the school day begins. They are the ones that get your day off to a rotten start with comments about the lousy parking situation, the noise in the hallway, the asthma they have because of the crumbling walls in their classrooms. In fact, if you can, swipe in, empty your mailbox, and head out of the office before the principal's secretary or some assistant principal can spot you and ask for your lesson plans. Run for the safety of your classroom.

3. Turn up some loud music. Make it something that will wake you up. Make it something annoying enough that will prevent your co-workers from stopping by. And something cool enough to repulse all but the coolest of your students. Lately, it's been the Clash for me, but also the new Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk.

4. Drink way too much coffee.

5. When students start trickling in, insist on high-fiving them. This will warm up their hearts and get blood pumping into their hands, which they will then use to write fascinating yet error-filled essays and poems.

6. Never, ever take yourself seriously. Understand that if you take yourself seriously in a room full of teenagers, there will be exactly one person in the room who thinks you're a serious and intelligent individual. Be willing to laugh at yourself when you spill coffee on the front of your pants--"Whoops! Looks like I've had an accident!"--or when you trip over a power cord. If you're laughing, their laughter won't hurt.

7. When you discover that not a single student is listening to you, realize that this is excellent practice for your next role in life: The Crazy Guy On The Bus Talking That Everyone Pretends Not To Hear. Start saying outlandish things. One or two kids will listen and laugh, and the rest will wonder what they're missing.

8. Eat your lunch in your classroom. Avoid the food and people hanging out in the teachers' cafeteria. They will poison your sandwich with gossip about pregnant girls and losers and drug dealers and drunks and hall walkers. Instead, invite those castoffs into your classroom during lunch and have plenty of tissue on hand for when the tears start flowing--theirs and yours.

9. After school, sit at your desk and grade some papers. Until one or two heads pop in your room. Then, talk for hours about dreams and goals and college life and girls and the weekend. Teenagers will keep you young. They will make you realize that you wasted your youth, just the way they are wasting theirs. And you will realize that, maybe you're wasting your adulthood on adult things. So you will leave work with a new sense of purpose to experience new things, to go out there and live, to never again regret wasting a beautiful or even not-so-nice evening.



Mr. Molitor said...

Very positive. You must be thinking of Denver. Here are some more positive words of wisdom:

Keep On The Sunny Side

There's a dark and a troubled side of life
There's a bright and a sunny side too
Though we meet with the darkness and strife
The sunny side we also may view

Keep on the sunny side always on the sunny side
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us every day it will brighten all our way
If we keep on the sunny side of life

Oh the storm and its fury broke today
Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear
The clouds and storm will in time pass away
The sun again will shine bright and clear

Let us greet with a song of hope each day
Though the moment be cloudy or fair
Let us trust in our Savior always
To keep us every one in His care

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and your words always bring a smile to my face. You need to be published!

appopt said...

Thanks! I feel I am published, here on the Internet.

appopt said...

... now if I could only get more people to read and/or comment ...

Anonymous said...

No wonder I never see you around the teachers lunchroom. I used to think it was because you weren't social, but now I realize its because you think I'm a loser.

Anonymous said...

I thought of commenting before but I didn't until I posted my comments about how your blog brings a smile to my face every time. Happy to hear you appreciated my comments! :)

But your blog is very uplifting. I
love that you are out in the world being a positive teacher. My mother was a high school teacher and she loved it and she was always frustrated by the people who chose to teach but hated it and were full of bitterness.

Oh, and tell your brother (I am referencing an older post!) you are never too old for music. I am 36, and I still love music myself.
Danielle, formerly anonymous commenter #1

appopt said...

Ah, finally the name of an anonymous commenter. Thanks again, Danielle! I think my brother would say he's not too old for music, just too busy being a grown-up, something I haven't come to terms with just yet. Which gives me an idea for today's post ...

art attack said...

unfortunetly as I have grown older my musical tastes have regressed. Heck, I can now sing along to the Wiggleworms and Old McDonald is a classic that never grows old.

mr. christian said...

Great post and very positive. Speaking of positive you seem to equate unions with negativity, and I just want to say as a on-again off-again building rep (in the burbs) that unions can do good things too.

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...

And...always look on the bright side of life...