My Photo
Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

RSS Feed

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hey, Mr. Kah-tere!

Here at the end of the first full week of school, I am still adjusting to having to be somewhere every day and not having the bulk of my time at my own disposal. Still, I’m enthused about school – there’s a bright and shiny aspect to the beginning of the year, and this semester I’m teaching a new English class that my students seem very into. Feral Mom’s delineations of the significant role teaching plays in keeping her bowels regular made me laugh to beat the band, and it also made me think about how natural teaching feels for me. I definitely get nervous on the first day of class, a day when I’m invariably so high-strung I accept the fact that my new students will think I’m completely batty (and console myself with the thought that they’ll come to see how I really am – only about half batty - as the semester gets underway). But once I’ve learned my students’ names and gotten the necessary policy bullshit out of the way, once I begin really teaching, I feel right at home.

I received a request from Esereth for more stories about teaching, and I have made a note of it. I’ve certainly shared a few school-related stories in the past, from lunch duty anecdotes, to my run-in with the math department , to my on-campus lingerie-making escapades. I’m not sure why I don’t blog about teaching more. Maybe because I already spend so much time doing it and talking about it (my Old Man is an English teacher too, and we never seem to tire of talking about literature, writing, and teaching). Maybe because I’m afraid if I start, I’ll never shut up.

I will end with a teaching anecdote. I like to think of myself as a fairly unflappable teacher - it's rare that a student busts out a comment that surprises or flusters me, because I'm basically a potty mouth with a dirty mind and a puerile sense of humor myself. In fact, I sometimes have to work up a good impression of a disapproving authority figure when a kid says something inappropriate that I actually find funny. I also pride myself on being honest with my students. But last week during my Creative Writing class, I both got flapped and told a flat-out lie. We were discussing J.D. Salinger's story "Just Before the War with the Eskimos" and one of my students compared the fifteen-year-old Ginny's crush on her friend's twenty-six-year-old brother to another kind of intergenerational crush: "It's kind of like when you get a crush on your teacher." Suddenly I felt my uptightness nerve begin to clench strenuously. "But that never happens," I said emphatically, "never." It was a joke, but it was also a lie and a convenient way of shutting down a discussion I didn't feel comfortable with. (Hey, I enjoy mid-eighties Van Halen as much as the next person, but when the "Hot for Teacher" thing goes from the realm of hair-metal fantasy to something close to my reality, I want to change the subject.)

And then, twenty minutes later another student admitted that she "hadn't brushed her teeth in four years," and I just about lost my shit. Discussions with students about student-teacher crushes? I get a little unsettled. Student disclosures (however exaggerated) about terrible oral hygiene habits? I get downright riled up. Luckily in this situation, I could be totally honest. And I schooled her. And I hope she learned her lesson.


Blogger Esereth said...

I can't think of a better response than "That never happens, never." I mean, it isn't really a lie, it's a joke.

What do you do when a student is rude and confrontative? I've always marveled how teachers handle that.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I wish I could describe the feeling I get as your posts skid to stop--somewhere between giddy and giggling, and...oddly, the best way for me to ever describe my joy over a blogger's life-in-words is to propose marriage. Bah. Damn "Family Act".

3:08 PM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

Okay, I am no Oral Hygiene Queen, but not brushing for four years really grosses me out. I hope you made her stay after class and write "I will brush my teeth at least once a day" one hundred times on the blackboard.

2:33 AM  
Blogger E. said...

Confronted by rude student: confer after class. I've gotten my serious no-bullshit, shape up and don't test me speech down fairly well at this point. It works the first time in the majority of cases.

Lisa, I accept. (Hey, it's all virtual, right? So the law needn't know and I'm sure my Old Man won't mind.)

sweatpantsmom, I definitely gave the non-brusher a strident talking to (several of my other students chimed in, some with statistics.) Turns out she was exaggerating, but still!

7:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Okay, student-teacher crush? Fine. Well and good.

The teeth brushing thing? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit when I read that. Seriously, my stomach is still churning.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oops, I realize I need to differentiate myself from your other Lisa commenter. (Did you know Lisa was the most popular girl's name in the 60s and 70s? But that's a story for another day.) The comment directly above this one is from me, Mama Blah Blah. It's all about context, right>

9:14 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Did you break out the book? Do I need to send floss? Cause I carry floss in my bag, baby...

1:09 PM  
Blogger E. said...

I know you do, baby. It's one of the things I love about you.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

Someday, many, many years from now, that stank-mouth girl will be a woman with clean teeth and healthy gums, and she will always remember you for being that one inspirational teacher who taught her so much about life...about brushing and flossing.

5:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home