When I started teaching in the year 2000, I was vastly ill-equipped (both intellectually and emotionally) to face the demand of rotating classes of adolescents all day long. Even now, thinking back to that first year, I feel an echo of the chill in my soul and the hollow in my bones that I felt every morning as I sat in my cold classroom, wondering what in the world I was going to wind up doing, saying, or dealing with on that particular day.
Still today, in my twelfth year of teaching, I find that there are still things that I am not prepared for.
1. Responding effectively to comments such as, "My mom read this book in high school and says that it was the most boring book ever in existence." Far be it from me to stifle parent educational input on any level--they're discussing classwork at home! YAY!--but I still haven't figured out a way to deal with comments like this in good grace. Today, when this phrase was uttered in my room in reference to one of my most beloved classics, all I could come up with was the decidedly limp, "Well. At least now you have a chance to decide if you agree with her." But really, parents. Come on. Cut a girl a break, will you? My task is challenging enough.
2. Coping with being sneezed on. Generally, when a kid sneezes violently directly onto or around my person, he is already embarrassed enough. My insistence on immediately wiping down my face and/or forearms with a Clorox wipe generally just compounds his embarrassment; however, until I learn how to simultaneously degermify and dematerialize snot globbets, this will most likely continue to be the most direct and effective course of action.
3. Holding it together after accidentally dropping a flagrantly embarrassing Spoonerism or committing various other verbal faux pas. Whether it was the time I dropped this gem: "When folding a flag, always remember to fart from the bottom," or the time that I informed a class full of TEFL students that BFF actually stood for "Breast Friends Forever," I've been guilty of some of the most hideous crimes against the English language imaginable. I've found no remedy for redeeming the moment other than in learning to ride the wave of laughter and to enjoy the fact that for once, my students and I are both laughing about the same thing.
4. Living down ridiculously memorable mistakes. There is no remedy for this one. To some students, I will always be the teacher who got pulled over for a traffic violation less than a block from the school during early-morning rush hour. To others, I will go down in history as the teacher who--as one homeroom class affectionately termed a public display of my innate physical clumsiness--"actually tripped over air." I know another teacher who pulled a muscle when he ill-advisedly decided to execute an impressive kung-fu-style kick during class. It just comes with the territory.
Those who are responsible for preparing teacher-training curriculum and mentoring first-year teachers should seriously consider adding the above issues to their syllabi. Future generations of teachers will thank you later.
Forewarned is forearmed.