I’ve officially taught high school English for seven complete days. And it’s weird that I’m a teacher now–weird, but good (really good). I have my own classroom. It’s all mine. I put a Led Zeppelin poster up on the wall near my desk and put a ship’s wheel in the corner between some desks and the “student resource station.” I drink coffee every single day now, and sometimes more than once. Most of my body’s nutrients come from coffee and PB&J sammiches. I wear a tie four days a week (Friday is “casual” day, where I can wear a shirt with my school’s name on it, or something else, I guess. I should just call them “Probably Plaid Fridays.”). I write objectives on a marker board. I’m 22 and I write academic objectives on a board that humans only 7 to 5 years younger than I are supposed to follow. I’m only 22. Twenty-two. I am growing a beard to look older. It doesn’t look good. The beard could also serve to attract hipsterish girls, but I have no time to meet them and no college to attend, so it mostly serves as a vain attempt to hide my age. I have about three thousand acronyms to memorize, and they create new ones all the time.
I haven’t cried yet (not that I would–I am a man). I haven’t had to take papers home to grade yet. Really, my teaching has gone pretty well so far. I already have stories I can’t share on a blog, because most of the things high school students talk about or reveal are not appropriate for a teacher to repeat on some public internet site. What I assume I can write about are a few of the highlights of my first Thursday, Friday, and full Monday-Friday of teaching.
- I introduced a unit on The Crucible with the song “Witch Hunt” by Rush. Music is power to high school students. If you like the same kind of music they do, or have even heard of it, you are a hero to them. If you introduce them to some music they like, you are a god. One student, who I don’t even have in class, told me “I don’t know you, but I love you,” when I had a brief conversation with him about Dream Theater’s live albums versus their studio albums. (I’m sure he was just using hyperbole, whether or not he’s learned that in his other English class.) And Rush went over pretty well, by the way. “Witch Hunt” isn’t as awesome as “Spirit of The Radio” or “Limelight,” but it does inspire conversations about racism, judgment, ignorance, hypocrisy, and the various witch hunts throughout history.
- As if I hadn’t already won over the nerds by playing Rush, I played a Monty Python video to go along with The Crucible, and MP makes any text worth studying.
- I streamed Netflix in class already. It was only a History Channel special on The Salem Witch Hunts, but it’s still a pretty cool thing to do, I think.
- I participated in a dance-off during an assembly (new teachers versus old teachers) and my team totally won. I did interpretive ribbon dancing with a metal pole I found in the back of the auditorium, and attached toilet paper to it, so how could we not win? Before the toilet paper was attached, several student council members referred to the random metal pole as my “pimp cane.”
- I’ve already chaperoned a dance. I was on “grind patrol,” which means I’m supposed to stop any too-intense dancing. If there is one thing I’ve learned how to do in my life, it is defuse a potentially sexual situation, so I think I did a pretty good job. I even brought a ruler from my classroom to demonstrate the appropriate amount of room between a dancing couple. I think I ticked off a few dudes, but I also think they thought I was another student who was just messing with them. Luckily, I didn’t have to break up naughty dancing very often at all.
- A maintenance worker, whom I had spoken to on several occasions, mistook me for a student on my second day.
- Some seniors identified me as the person who did stand-up comedy for their 8th grade graduation four years ago at a country club. This show is legendary in my mind for being one of my worst shows ever. It was my first 30 minute show. It was my first show for an audience younger than people in high school. And there was no microphone (no microphone!!). They passed notes, texted, and just talked to each other as I stood at the front of the room, so I decided to circulate between the tables at which they sat, like a model train on a simple track, and tell jokes to a few of them at a time so that at least a few of them would hear me at a time. It was miserable. And these girls seemed to recall it fondly four years later. Honestly, I was really uncomfortable with the idea that that show still existed in anyone’s mind other than my own, and I tried to find a reason to leave.
- A student shared with the class about when he was temporarily kicked out of middle school for a rumor (and only a rumor) that was started about how he wanted to shoot up the school, and also that he built bombs, during class discussion. I didn’t believe it. Half the class went to middle school with this student and confirmed the story’s truth–some even added that they were terrified of the suspected terrorist and signed a petition to remove him from school. BUT they didn’t know that was what the petition was for because the creator of the rumor said the petition was for something else. The rumored school threat is one of my best students, and probably has no idea how to make a bomb.