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Entry date: 1-5-2022 - Being a teacher is hard (random thoughts) - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Being a teacher on a big campus is often like being somewhat famous. You walk around campus and children say hello and sometimes even look at you like you are some sort of otherworldly figure. You also get the mean looks, too, that famous people probably have to put up with all the time from those who are jealous or just don’t like them. It’s a lot of fun, for the most part, though, and it’s nice to know there are students out there who wish they were in your class.

If they only knew, of course, that it was not all peaches and gravy (Scott Pilgrim) for the students in your class all the time. If they only knew that you had expectations of hard work and paying attention and the super mean, staying in one’s seat. If the fans out there only knew that you were a tough grader and would suffer only a modicum of bullshit before privileges were taken away, they might not be as friendly or as quick to act like a fan.

*****

The students often watch the clock like hawks who are hunting for prey but mean old Mr. R only has a clock on his wall that features roman numerals. This is torture for 2nd graders except, of course, those who are quick enough to figure out that a clock is a clock, whether it has numbers or letters. These students are free and not tortured by the gifts of the Roman empire. I applaud these students as I see their knowing grins when a less fortunate student asks, “Mr. R, when is second dismissal?” and I say, “The same time it is every day.” Sometimes they ask, “How many minutes before dismissal?” I just say, “Figure it out,” and go back to entering grades.

Thus is a glimpse into my life around 3:30pm.

*****

“Please make sure your floor is clean and your chairs are pushed in” comes out of my mouth way more than I would like to admit. I have 29 seven and eight-year-olds in my charge. Some of you are having a hard time picturing this, I know, but after being in bands for over 30 years, they are way easier to manage than some of the adults I know and have known in my life. At least these little folks will sometimes listen.

*****

I have several students who are really concerned about the classroom being a place of harmony and peace. They look out for others, take care of things, and are, gasp, conscientious human beings. It makes my heart warm to see them grow and become even better human beings as the year progresses and is easily one of the best parts of being a teacher. Those of you reading this who are teachers, or the parents out there, will also know this special joy.

However, there are those that seem like they have no chance of ever being a decent human being. Some are so self-centered and so oblivious to the fact that other people have feelings, needs, or are even breathing that I am scared for the world when they are running things. I do my best to stem this tide with some good old-fashioned listening and being as good of an example as I can be, but for several of my students, that doesn’t seem to push the right buttons.

It's heartbreaking.

*****

I don’t understand the whole Pokémon thing.

I guess, more accurately, I don’t care to understand it. I mean, I get that kids are fascinated by this stuff and it is probably not any different than how I was fascinated by baseball cards as a kid or superheroes, but these cards are like combination of gold and drugs and candy to the kids. I have one student who will lie to my face over a Pokémon card. It’s gotten to the point where his mother had to promise me that her son would not bring them to school anymore. Craziness!

The kids trade them back and forth and argue about which cards are better and I can just feel the utter lack of interest wash over me. I am becoming an old person right in front of my own eyes, I fear. There are so many of those cards in my desk at work that I probably have a nice little collection brewing. I tell the students that I’m happy to return their cards when their parents tell me it’s okay to do so. Many of them don’t want to have that conversation, so I’ll have to dole them out to my best students at the end of the year

*****

Back to the subject of heartbreaking, I just got a call from my mom. It seems that my grandmother, who is 95, is now on the highest possible dose of blood pressure medication and there is nothing else that can be done to help her after this point. The writing is on the wall, and it is a pill that I’m not quite ready to swallow. As I said to my mom, I just sort of have this feeling that my grandmother, or Granny as I call her, will always be here.

I’m fighting back the tears as I type this now and I feel like I have to keep going because she didn’t raise me to give up when things are hard. She has always been there to help however she could, but for the last twenty years or so, she’s been so proud of how much I’ve accomplished on my own. She didn’t have to pick up the pieces with my grandfather and put me on the right path time and time again like she did when I was younger. I’ll write more about her as this year continues, I’m sure, but it is most important for me to call her and see if there is anything I can do at this moment.

Send her some pleasant thoughts, please.

See you tomorrow.


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