Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'm Not Really an Asshole; I Just Play one on TV

Bienvendios! This is my introduction by way of a disclaimer.  I’m a high school teacher which means I deal with lots and lots of shit.  Not actual feces, as I refuse to interact with those little creatures that might erupt at any given moment with fluids coming out of orifices.  I’m referring here to teenage shit, and the shit their parents will dole out in sometimes equal proportions.  Don’t forget about the shit from the administration either.  We’re up to our eyeballs in the stuff.  There’s plenty of fodder to work with here; we’ve got entitlement issues, laziness, misguided anger issues and just sheer stupidity.  So, prepare yourself.  I will get on my huffy bike without the proper head gear or elbow pads, and I will pedal my heart out, basket, streamers and all.  I will be pissy and unfair to some folks out there.  I may come across as, wait for it—a bitch. 

However, I’m not really an asshole.  Here’s what I think.  Being cynical and sarcastic are results of simply being disappointed in life many many times. The important part (the one that doesn’t make me sound like an asshole) is that in order to become this way, we must have begun the journey optimistically.  We believed the  world provided endless opportunities for us to learn, grow and yes, sometimes challenge us, but that was alright, because in the end, everything would work out.  “Oh the places I’ll go!” Dr. Suess told us.  And I’d never contradict the Doc, but the hills in the journey are a bitch. 

And you should know, I am still a teacher.  I won’t get all Hallmark on your ass, but when the job is good, it’s fucking awesome.  Not in a Michelle Pfeiffer sort of way, but in a Dead Poet’s Society kind of way—wait, that kid died, right?  Ok, the part about the kids “getting it.”  And Robin Williams, the maverick  teacher on campus, nods knowingly to his students and Ethan Hawke, the quiet student who found himself,  stands on his chair being so cute and panting  looking back at his “captain.”  Except I don’t get fired.   

All teachers have these moments or we wouldn’t stay in the profession.  But one of my favorite stories is about a student, who we’ll call Amy.  Now in ninth grade, she had never been in a pre-Advanced Placement (AP) class so when we started working in analyzing texts and writing about it, she felt overwhelmed since she lacked some of the skills her classmates had acquired through the years.  After class, several times a week, she’d drop by and we’d go through her analysis.  It was painful.  She got her first report card.  This was also painful.  She came to me crying asking as to whether or not she should stay in the course and continue banging her head against the wall or “drop” to a less challenging course.  For a teacher, this can be a tricky conversation.  I gave her a tissue, told her to buck up little camper and we went through yet another assignment together.  However, in time with her tenacity, humility and grace we got her writing level beyond her classmates.  By the end of the year she was making “A”s when her classmates were struggling.  Amy went on to graduate at the top of her class with scholarships to four different colleges.  She came to visit me on her last day of her senior year with the line every dedicated teacher deserves to hear: “If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

This blog will not just be about teaching though.  Like everyone on the planet, I have been through painful experiences.  I’ve also been blessed to experience friendship, beauty, and love.  One would expect some wisdom gleaned from these.  One would assume I know things.  The irony is that although I’m paid to be a teacher, I’m absolutely still learning.  And I usually have to learn the lesson twice because I’m very stubborn.  And I don’t like to be wrong, which I often am.  I hope this serves as a way for us all to laugh at the wonderful, disturbing, unfair, hilarious world in which we all live, and how I deal with it.  

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