C is for Classroom

by melissakiefer

Yes, I do know my alphabet and realize that this entry is out of order in the A-Z blog challenge.

C is for Classroom
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Teachers can control the climate, the atmosphere of their classrooms. They have the choice to be the thermostat or the thermometer. They can make their classrooms miserable or joyous. They can humiliate or humor. They can hurt or heal. They can humanize or dehumanize. A teacher should have pride in his or her classroom. If it looks like trash, students will trash it. They’ll continue to believe they are trash. Clean it. Make it stimulating, colorful, beautiful.  Turn it into a world for joy, humor, healing.
Dear teachers I see in the schools where I substitute teach: please stop frowning. Students see you as just another person they disappoint. If you hate teaching, don’t be a teacher. Simple logic, really. Your students are angry, unmotivated, and misunderstood. So don’t dive right in to the lesson. You need an opener. You need to connect to their world. Make them care. Make it fun. And you need a closer. Tie it up. Make it memorable. In classroom management, don’t threat. But when you do, follow through. Make the lesson about them. Use examples with the students in it. Don’t get frustrated. It is part of your job to explain concepts over and over again. What the student on the other side of the classroom just learned because you explained it is not something that the current student with his hand up who asked the exact same question heard. It is not his fault. Explain it again. Explain it in a way that he can understand.  Explain the concept using football or “Jersey Shore” or Hunger Games. Speak his language. With a smile. It’s your job.   
Not every teacher I observed while subbing was a burnt out, joy-sucking monster. Meet Mr. Richardson the Rock Star.
His classroom? Perfect. His shirt? Pink. His personality? Hilarious. His smile? Infectious. He taught fifth grade. Some days I want to be a special education teacher. Some days I want to be a college literature professor. Some days a writer of books and magazine columns. And now, some days I want to teach fifth grade. But what I really want? I want so badly to entertain. To be silly, clever ,charming, quick. I have a need to love deeply and to be loved deeply back. Ridiculously so. Idolized almost. A terrible, vain foible of mine.  I was a lowly substitute aide in Mr. Richardson’s classroom. I was to keep quiet and keep an eye out on my students with IEPs. It was not my stage. I was not supposed to interject with grammar songs or anecdotes, especially not when the teacher on his own rightful stage was rocking it. The spotlight wasn’t mine to have. He had a video. He used the students as examples. He used what they ate for lunch as examples. He used school events as examples.  He asked for them to give their own examples. He was using humor, using control, using precise classroom management. He was born to teach, knowing it, making it easy, showing off. And I was the crazed fan, the groupie screaming to please, please pull me up on stage, let me have the chorus or the bridge or the verse. Let me sing with the rock star. I thought about how brilliant co-teaching could be if done correctly, equally, shared– if the teachers got along. But I knew I really wanted the solo; let me hit those high notes. I can. I have a teacher crush. No, not a physical one. The man was wearing pink. I have a teacher crush on technique and charm and colorful classroom and brilliant ideas and memorable tactics.
I wonder why I need this attention. Perhaps because I can’t or don’t take the lead or solo in any social situation. I’m not the entertaining one of any circle. I prefer not to talk, especially not about myself. I start sweating. I start stumbling. I start making not a smidge of sense. I don’t know how to interject politely, so I don’t. I don’t need to be the subject of any conversation–not my problems, not my interests, not my plans or wants or what I’m wearing or what I had to eat today. I want you to talk about you. I am content, a good listener.  I don’t tell interesting stories. I don’t know jokes. I don’t offer examples or worthwhile comments or questions. But in a classroom? I need not a pin to drop. I need them in the palm of my hand. I feel the need to make rabbits appear out of my hat, to twirl my magician cape, to mesmerize with words and material and wit and the wild shock of learning.
I should not have made a scene. I should have known my place. I am not a teacher anymore. What gives me the right? Mr. Richardson’s room was the powerful pull of atmosphere, environment, surroundings. And the classroom proves that in the debate of nature vs. nurture, nature conquers me.
Can you relate? Have you had a similar experience?
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