17 June 2009

Life since 2008, Part I, Teaching

It is in the middle of June, and I’m think I’m totally rested and ready to return to school. It usually takes me an entire month longer. I’m not sure why this summer is different. Maybe the fact that this past school year was less stressful than the few previous school years were. I wasn’t conflicting with the administration as much, which is great. Overall, all my students were wonderful, which I might add, AS USUAL! Or maybe it was all the green tea I was drinking this year.

One day I saw Bonnie, a fellow teacher about my age, smiling and relaxed. I asked her what made her look so happy and relaxed. Her answer was green tea. So I started drinking green tea every morning and every afternoon. I already take a handful of vitamins and supplements, and I firmly believe they help me stay well and keep going straight from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. or later. Between the flu shot, the vitamins & supplements and the Green Tea, I was healthy all school year.

Anyone who spends their days with 12 and 13-year-old people will probably agree with me that they can be very challenging. I should add exciting, fun and never boring. Oh yes, and frustrating. Not everyone should work with kids this age, but there are those of us who thrive doing so. It takes patience, a lot of love and a strange sense of humor. It takes faith that no matter how unlikely it seems, somehow your work is meaningful no matter what parent yelled at that day, or student who tells you they hate you, or even an administrator who is angry because they want “easy” & you prefer “right” over “easy.”

This year I had some twelve-year-old female screamers. Every once in a while I’ll have a girl in the seventh grade that screams when she interacts, but this year I had three in a class. Screamers always remind me of María, a student of mine who was in my class over 15 years ago. As a seventh grader she drove me nuts because the only way I could interact with her was with mutual screaming. I wondered if there are some people who need to be yelled at for assurance that they are cared about. A big part of it is being twelve and having hormones bouncing around that one isn’t use to yet.

María ended up being in my eighth grade U.S. class the next year. I held my breath as I saw her walk into my class at the beginning of our second year together. She was one of the best eighth grade students I’ve ever had. If one of my students even started giving me a hard time, María was right there scolding them to not disrespect Ms. López. I love you María. I was already about halfway through my teaching career, yet I learned so much from you.

I don’t usually like to write about my job, especially in the middle of the school year and to anyone who happens upon CyBeRGaTa the BLoG. I just left school this year, my 34½ year, feeling so positive. No matter how tough the end of the year is, and containing twenty-seven twelve and thirteen year old people in a classroom with summer break around the corner is pretty tough, the end of the year is great when your students have been working hard and learned so much.

Anyone who teaches knows the feeling. The feeling when a student comes back and remembers how cool it was learning about the Aztecs or Benjamin Franklin. The feeling when a student with a puzzled look on their face asks a great question, and you reply with a question, then the look on their face when the question makes them see the answer, and maybe beyond. The feeling when a student tells you they did “better than the smart kids” on a test in high school because of what they learned in your class. Or looking at your students, all engaged in what they are doing. Or when a student tells you that they never realize how many cool things happened here in New Mexico. My father, also a teacher, called this feeling a “physic paychecks.” I call it the reason teachers keep coming back year after year after year.

Holloween as an Alien at Taylor Middle
School, late 1970s or early 1980s.

Me at Jefferson Middle School,
late 1980s early 1990s.

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