"Stupid white person."
This is what a student in my last period class told me just before walking out of my room. With 28 sets of eyes on me, I wrote him up, then went back to what I was doing.
"Miss, I don't think you're stupid," one of my students mentioned casually.
"Thanks, DeCameron. All of you would be in big trouble if I was."
A few minutes later, an office aide peeked her head in the door from the hall. She was holding the referral. She looked pained.
"Yes?" I asked.
"You wrote your own name on the office referral." It took me a moment to realize what this meant. Then she continued.
"It's like you wrote yourself up, miss."
I turned to my students. They looked like they were about to explode. The girl in my class who has said two words since August was actually gripping the sides of her desk in an attempt to hold in her laughter. As they watched in silence, I corrected the form, then walked calmly to the front of the room.
"I'm putting the timer on. You have exactly 30 seconds to make fun of me as loud as you want. Go."
It's been a good day.
Stupid White Person
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I have now been teaching middle school for 3/4 years. Here are some lessons I've learned.
-Do not eat celery with peanut butter in front of your students. This combination, to them, is horrifying. You may as well pull out a bag of raw chicken breasts soaked in laundry detergent and begin gnawing on them.
-The way you "win" with a problematic student is by keeping your cool. The worst-behaving students are the ones who crave attention the most, so yelling or any demonstration of anger from you is like candy for them. What they hate, however, is seeing you totally cool in a moment of crisis. For example, today a student said, “Who asked you, bitch-ass nerd?” after I told him his example sentence contained a comma splice. Rather than yell, or even say, "That's not how you talk to me, youngster!" I simply said, "Yikes, that’s the first time I’ve heard that one,”, sent him to the AP's secretary with a Post-It Note reading "To 7th grade office-- referral pending. Thank you! :)" on it, and continued teaching. (Also, I would like to see "bitch-ass nerd" earn a spot in my vocabulary in conversation with other adults. "Ma’am, I believe you wrote down the routing number instead of the checking account." "Bitch-ass nerd!”
-Tape any equipment cords to the floor with duct tape. Tripping in front of your class will lose you the respect of every single one of them for at least a month, and for the rest of the year you will receive a weekly reminder that sounds something like this: "Miss, member when you had FELL DOWN? You was like this, oh, oh oh! *trips dramatically*" and you will be forced to laugh because it's hilarious.
-Love the Baddies ("bad" students). Sometimes, they will love you back. Sometimes, they will take your love, crumple it up in a ball, douse it in gasoline, set it on fire, and throw it back in your face. But I just have this feeling that it's worth it.
-Be polite to every staff member, but especially the secretaries. This was one of the greatest pieces of teaching advice I received from a veteran, and it's so true. Secretaries know EVERYTHING. About everyone. Ever.
-Teaching is not an easy or "cushy" job. In college, I used to look at the other English majors going into teaching and be like, "Oh, that's cute." I wish I could go back to College Me and kick her in the teeth. There are very few professions more important or more underpaid than teaching. If you disagree, I would be delighted to arrange for you to shadow me for a week. You will wonder why teachers don't have 11 months of vacation. My third period would annihilate you.
-If you choose to wear a skirt, be prepared for any student to scrutinize the length of your leg hair aloud, even with an administrator in the room.
That is all.