I’ve recently become re-acquainted with three friends.
Since I left the classroom, my three friends and I haven’t talked as much. We just… had less common ground; the time together got more cumbersome and more full of awkward silence.
You know how it is; eventually, you start ignoring their calls.
Since subbing in your class, these three have kicked in my door, demanding we get reacquainted.
It was probably Tuesday of this week. Seventh period had just clambered out the door after a clumsily-ended lesson. As I collapsed into the desk chair and felt the presence of Guilt leaning over my shoulder.
“That didn’t go so well did it?” I could feel Guilt’s smug grin and thin eyebrows peering at my plan book, which read Double Clothesline – Equations.
There wasn’t much else in the book.
Guilt continued, “Perhaps you could have prepped a little better. Some of these students are taking this class for the second or third time, you know. Don’t they deserve an excellent teacher?”
Guilt straightened and folded his arms behind his back. “If they were your children, what kind of teacher would you want for them?”
As Guilt turned for the door, he shrugged and called back over his shoulder with a smirk, “And Claire is counting on you to get these kids ready for her when she comes back.”
Then he left.
Before the door could close, a knobby set of knuckles grabbed it and swung it open again.
I didn’t see her at first; my head was in my hands, staring down at my planning book. Dammit. I take a deep sigh. I see exactly where I botched 7th period. If I could do that lesson again tomorrow, it’d be way better.
“No can do, Matty-O.” I look up to see white-haired Time leaning against a student desk, her wrinkled skin bunching below her smile. “Tuesday’s done and you’ve got to finish the Solving Equations Unit before the test on Thursday.”
She tapped a large watch on her wrist. “I wait for no one. Tap them feet; you’ve got progress to make.”
“Okay, hold on.” I complain. “I didn’t start 7th period the same way that I did 6th, so now I have classes with two different depths of understanding. Can I get a do-over?”
“Ha! Nope,” barks Time, her head shaking back and forth on her frail shoulders. “Plan tomorrow’s lesson, not today’s again.”
I leaned back in my chair as the watch on her wrist began to chime. “Oops! Gotta run!”
And she sprinted out the door.
The door clanged shut just as the A/C hummed on. It’s been 80 degrees during 7th period since school began last week, so the students get squirrelly and crotchety. Of course, it kicks on now, at 2:57.
I tilted my head back and stared at the discolored ceiling tiles. The pacing guide is good, but the textbook and standards are new. I thought to myself. It’s natural for teaching to be hard… should it be this hard? Am I working hard at doing it wrong?
“Wurf.” The third friend, a lazy St. Bernard, plodded in and collapsed below the vent in the middle of the class.
She first joined us mid-Wednesday after a fairly traditional lesson. We did a warm-up, then notes, then practice problems on the whiteboard. The students were more orderly and more comfortable following orders and solving equations using the standard algorithm than they were using the Double Clothesline method.
I looked down at my plan book. Is it worth it to attempt to un-learn the standard algorithm so they can see why it’s important? Am I doing more harm than good here?
Adrift shrugged her shoulders, vacantly looking around the room, as if counting the lights or wondering if all the pieces of notebook paper could fit together to make one whole piece.
I pulled up a Twitter window on the computer and typed,
Teaching is the best and hardest job in the world, in large part, because the goal posts are nebulous/can shift in the 5-min passing period.
Adrift coughs and makes eye contact for the first time. Really? She rolls over, not waiting for my response.
“This is good,” I say out loud. “It’s good that I’m feeling this again; the whole point of me stepping back into the classroom was to remind myself of what teachers feel on a daily basis. The feeling of plotting my own course through the curriculum, even when I co-plan with some teammates is a natural feeling for teachers.
Adrift yawns and flops her head down on my Teacher’s Edition. If you say so.
Claire, my three friends weren’t welcome additions to my calendar this week; in fact, I’ve quite enjoyed being free of them since I took the job as Ed/Tech Coach two and a half years ago.
Yet for my teammates, for the few hundred who have sat in my workshops since I left 30 months ago, and for you, Claire, I should really do a better job of keeping up with them.
“Credibility” was one of the reasons I volunteered to pick up a long-term sub job, to remind myself what teachers feel.
I should be more careful what I wish for.
~Matt “Imaginary Friends” Vaudrey