My first book has been released!

My first book has been released!
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Teachers are People Too!

I would wager that the average adult would not last one day as a teacher.  Oh, it seems as if they leave work at 3 o'clock each day and enjoy restful summers, but this just isn't the case.  During my fourteen years as an English teacher, I had to read every night whether I wanted to or not.  And I wasn't reading romance novels, but Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I required students to write weekly journals, which I read all weekend and wrote comments on the entries to encourage those who were struggling with personal issues.  I corrected piles of essays and term papers.  I worked every weekend and all summer as a waitress to supplement my income. 
Most people shudder at the thought of giving a 3 minutes presentation in front of peers, whether in college or in the business world.  A teacher has to speak and lead meaningful discussions for 40 minutes, 7 times a day.  While speaking, it helps if they are interesting...or better yet exciting and engaging.  They have to do this in front of a sometimes hostile audience (I taught in a technical high school where students hating English class--until they met me.) And you have to get ALL students, even the most severely handicapped, or those with limited English, to attain minimum proficiency on a test that most Americans would never pass.  In fact, the average American could not pass the 4th grade test.  When we were in school, a math problem on a standardized test required us to find the area of a rectangle.  Today's math problems go something like this: Pedro was hired to cut his neighbor's grass, which measures two acres for $8 per hour.  Pedro asked his friends Rasheed and Joseph to help him.  If they divide the grass into 3 sections, how many square yards would each boy cut?  If each boy cut 500 yards per half hour with a push mower, how long with it take the team to finish?   If Joseph cut the grass for only one hour, how much would he finish?  If Pedro and Rasheed divided the remainder of the grass, how long with it take them to finish?  How much would they get paid? Write an essay explaining your answer.  This is a fabricated fourth grade math question, but trust me, it's very close to reality.
Of course, for all of the struggles of being a teacher, nothing matched the laughter and joy associated with the job.  Students are not widgets, so you never know what to expect each day.
During my first year of teaching, I taught English in a nursing classroom that had 8 hospital beds on one side and a classroom on the other.  Each day, I had to ignore the unusual sexual poses someone placed the male and female hospital mannequins  in before my class started.  One day, the sweet little nursing teacher, who was in her late 50s, about 5 2” with round glasses and mousy brown hair,who barely whispered when she talked, asked if she could speak to me.
I left my classroom of 23 freshmen and told them to continue reading while I was gone for a minute.  Once we were in the hallway, Mrs. Roberts folded her tiny hands across her chest and said in a very serious tone.  “We have a problem.”  Knowing how well respected she was and that I was new and making lots of mistakes, I panicked for a minute.         
I said, “I’m so sorry.  I’m sure it can be worked out.  What is it Mrs. Roberts?”
She said, “Someone stole my vagina.”
“What?”  She usually spoke as if sugar melted in her mouth so I assumed I didn’t hear her correctly. 
“Excuse me?” I asked and put my hand to my ear to signal for her to repeat what she said.  She said, “I believe one of your students stole the model of a vagina that I use for my nursing class.”  She added.  “My vagina was here last night when I locked-up and your students have been the only class in the room today.”
With all my might I muffled my laughter in the back of my throat.  “Oh my God, I am so sorry."  I tried to show deep concern. "I'll look into it and get back to you right away.”
As I turned the door knob to my classroom I thought, I am looking into her vagina?  Great.
As I closed the door and reentered my classroom, I bent over and started laughing so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath.  Tears were dripping down my cheeks as I laughed uncontrollably.  My class stared at me as if I was losing my mind.  I squeezed my legs together as if I were going to pee my pants.  Then, after a few long minutes, I got control of myself and raised my hand to quiet the class, but more to gain my own balance and composure.

Then, with the most serious face I could muster and a monotone voice, I said.  “Someone in this room stole a vagina.”
The class had never seen me more serious.  There was a awkward moment of silence. 
But just one moment later, they all lost it and laughter was roaring throughout the room.  I couldn’t help but join in.  I tried to be serious again and added, “I don’t care who did it…but I want that vagina back on this chair by 3:00PM today.  My job is on the line.”
I was forced to ignore the comments like the one from Alex: “Hey, it’s been snatched!”
Fortunately for me, Mrs. Robert’s vagina was returned and placed on my desk that day as required.  After that one moment of joy that we all shared, I never had a discipline problem with my class and we shared an outstanding adventure in literature throughout the year.  We made a connection and that is the basis for outstanding education.   
Then, through the magic of reading chapters out loud, watching videos, acting out scenes, conducting mock trials, and other methods, I helped them tackle To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible, Of Mice and Men, Shakespeare and more.  I loved to see how proud my vocational students were that someone expected them to learn and to understand these works.  Other teachers shared stories about how much my students spoke to them about suddenly loving English class.

Once, the automotive teacher was listening to two of his students who were in the grease pit under a car.  The one student, who attended the vocational school on a part-time basis and had academic classes in a different high school, said to his buddy, “We’re reading MacBeth in English Class. It’s so stupid and boring.  I hate it.”  Brian, a student from my class, answered, “Well, maybe you just don’t understand it.”

(Enjoy reading my blog?  A portion of this post is an excerpt from my 5 Star memoir: My Mother Killed Christ: But God Loves Me Anyway.  Buy it on or Kindle Today!)

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