The last two and a half weeks of teaching have been quite the whirlwind adventure. Since my teaching certificate is still being processed I have to have a sub with me in the room at all times. The subs just sit in the back and I do all the teaching. The kids seem to have forgotten that there is always an old lady sitting in the back of the room and have just accepted her presence as being normal. I have a morning sub at one school and an afternoon at the other school and they’re both named Kris. They’re both great, but very different. Morning Kris wears jeans, has pigtails and does crafts while she subs and afternoon Kris dresses up like a business woman, works part-time as a realtor and does work in the back of the room that the office people give her.
After class on the second day of school morning Kris came up to me and said, “Ben, as a veteran of 40 years of teaching I feel like I should tell you some things.” She quickly complimented me on the things I was doing well and then told me all of the things I was doing wrong and warned me that things would get bad really fast if I didn’t fix them in the beginning. When she was finished and left I collapsed into a chair and just felt like barfing. Not because I was mad or disgusted, but because she was right and I knew it. I felt overwhelmed with all that I had to do. I knew going into this that I wasn’t prepared and having morning Kris expose my fears was like a kick in the pants. I felt physically ill for most of the first week of school because I knew I was in over my head and I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
To her credit morning Kris kept giving me advice. Everyday she’d write up a page of notes about how I was teaching and discuss it with me at the end of the day. She could have just sat in the back of the room and done nothing, but she decided to help me. And luckily I was smart enough to listen and do what she said. My room went from being on the verge of out of control to being orderly and organized. She pointed out all kinds of things that I would have missed. Morning Kris saved me from a terrible year and gave my kids a good classroom and I’m so grateful for her.
Afternoon Kris is very different. Morning Kris is pleasant, but afternoon Kris is incredibly pleasant. Morning Kris spent years teaching high school math and afternoon Kris spent years teaching elementary school and their differing experiences are evident in their personalities. Afternoon Kris has a soft, soothing voice while morning Kris has a commanding, authoritative voice. I’d ask afternoon Kris for advice hoping that she would help me like morning Kris did, but typically she would just praise me for doing a great job. While I appreciated the boast of self-esteem, I didn’t need that so much as I needed honest feedback. My afternoon classes are going well, but not nearly as well as my morning classes because I haven’t had someone advising me on how to create a better classroom each day. So here’s what I’ve learned: even though it makes me want to vomit, I’d rather be told how to be better than just be told that I’m great.
I will now poke fun at my students. On the second day of class I had my students fill out some information cards so that I could get to know them a little bit better. Here’s what two of them wrote when I asked them to tell me a little about themselves:
“I’m Mexican. I have a dog. My dog is fat.”
“I am Chinese. I take gummybear vitamins.”
I asked my students why they wanted to study Spanish. Here’s what one kid said:
“Since my friends also take Spanish, I want a special way to communicate together without our parents being nosy and asking ‘who’s this? Whatcha’ talking about?’”
My students were supposed to write any fears or concerns they had about Spanish class, but they apparently didn’t read the part that said “Spanish class.” Here’s what a few of them said:
“biggest fear: creepy ppl, sharks.”
“highly terrified of spiders and slugs.”
“Sometimes I forget the forms of Spanish and like I’m bad at writing sentences so I always get docked off points on tests.”
“I’m allergic to peanuts, but not deathly allergic.”
“understandance of speech.”
“I hate being sick, so I try to stay away from sick people or ya know and yay.”