School Daze

Back to the grind, Loyal Reader. Except, lucky, lucky, lucky Me, my job is anything but a grind. Teaching high school English is way too much fun. True, it can be frustrating. Kids – my primary clients – are often times certifiable. They can really work you over. Working with a pack of crazies (who like to gang up on you in their illogical arguments) can be dangerous. You have stay one step ahead. Jedi skills help. Mind tricks, reverse psychology, stone cold stares (that’s a fun one), feigning madness, cultivating and shaping unease – the list goes on and on. The tactics are endless. The key is to employ them while holding on to your sanity and not letting teen idiocy get to you. It’s all about having fun with it. Wisdom bests raw youth every time. Oh, and remember, you are in control.

Which absolutely rules.

When are we ever in control?

Your classroom. Your rules. Your spin on the curriculum. It’s mighty empowering.

(I work right here.)

Anyways, today, my fellow teachers and the staff of my high school returned from summer vacation for the first workday of the school year. The kids don’t show up until Wednesday, so we have morning meetings and then we get the rest of the day to prepare our classrooms for the impending onslaught of smelly teens. So then, after a little red tape it’s off to our rooms (or, should your room be all ready to go, it’s off to wherever you desire – control, baby – yep!).

Look, I’ve worked retail, and waited tables, and then after college I dove head first into a business marketing career, and I’ve gotta say, compared to what I do now, these jobs sucked big time. Meeting up with a crew of teachers after two months of restful vacation feels good. It’s just like back in the day when we were kids re-convening for the first day of school. Hugs and handshakes abound. Sure, we all wish we had another month to sleep in and live each day as if it were a Saturday, but hell! We’ve all just had two months off. Two months!

Working marketing or retail, I was lucky if I got two weeks vacation time. And worse, while away, the work continued to pile up. It’s nice how we all go away and then come back and everything just sort of resets. It’s the same with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring breaks. We complain, but alas, we jest. The majority of us (there are a few burn outs in every bunch) know how lucky we are. We appreciate the time off and are anxious to be back. Most of us actually miss the kids and look forward to guiding them through the year.

Quick break! Check out some inspirational teacher talk from a poetry slam champ…

Jealous? Of course you are, but don’t fret. Did I mention we have to get up at the butt crack of dawn? Or how about having a bad day? Nothing makes a crappy day worse than obnoxious hordes of teenagers getting on your nerves.

Pros and cons aside, walking those high school hallways always feels a bit surreal. An odd nostalgia tugs at the heartstrings.

It’s weird spending my youth on one side of the fence and living my adulthood on the other. Knowing what I know, seeing how things work on the other side of the curtain, I can’t help but to smile. Man, I was sooo stupid as a teen! The small army of teachers, administrators, principals, and custodians, and lunch ladies, running the institution are regular folks that cuss, and slack, and goof off just like the kids they’re trying to whip into shape. Some are cool. Some are dorks. Some are good. Some are evil.

(Control, good sir, control.)

Not that the students seem to care. Sometimes it feels like they don’t see us as people. We’re Authority Figures. Automatons. Shells. Self absorption (the most evil of all teenage shortcomings) strips us of our humanity. This is a bit much for some (statistical evidence suggests that most teachers move on to something else – be it administration or a different field all together – within four years time). They freak out and forget that kids are kids. They forget to take a deep breath, flex their thick skin, embrace patience, and draw understanding from deep within. Successful teachers need limitless amounts of intestinal fortitude.

I love this song, Loyal Reader. All hail mid 80s Van Halen!


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