Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Just Stop Doggin' Me Around
I don’t enjoy being observed while I teach. No one does really, even the veterans who’ve got things under control, but it’s worse for me I think, because I’m not just young and inexperienced, I’m a complete fraud.

I try, really I do, but no matter what there’s always some kid banging out a beat on his desk, or standing by the window tying the blinds cords into an elaborate knot, or throwing balled up paper at someone else, or drawing a penis on the chalkboard, or just generally not shutting up.

That stuff is a constant. The only variables are my behavior and how many and the degree to which the kids are wilding out. My reactions depend as much on my mood as what the kids are actually doing. On the rare occasions when I’m feeling mellow I let things slide and help out those students that are actually working. If I happen to be in a really good mood I’ve been known to do things entirely inappropriate for a teacher like throwing things (pencils, paper airplanes) back at the kids, or looking the other way while a spirited game of Yu-gi-oh gets going.

I’ve actually created quite a buzz among the student body by periodically busting out a poorly executed Michael Jackson spin-move. I wait until only a couple of kids are paying attention to me, then rock it by quickly swinging my right lower-leg back and forth in front of my left, placing the right toe as far behind my left foot as I can reach, spinning on it, then leaning forward, knees bent and pressed together, and letting out a little “hoo!” After a particularly well-executed spin it takes all the restraint and willpower I can muster not to grab my crotch.

It happens fast and only a couple of kids actually see the whole thing. A few others catch it out of the corner of their eye, and the buzz begins to rumble.

“Do it again! Do it again!” the girls squeal.

“Meester, you dancing?”

At this point I look around incredulously.

“Who? Me?” I feign confusion. “Dance? Huh? What?”

Because so few actually saw me, and the reports from those that did are by nature hyperbolic and vague, many of the students become convinced that while they weren’t looking I did something spectacular. I figure a few more strategically timed spins and my legend will spread throughout the Shitty campus.

Usually, though, I’m in no mood for dancing. Usually I’m agitated, sometimes mildly, sometimes to the brink of violence. Alternately, you may find me screaming, tapping my foot impatiently, sighing heavily, slamming a book on my desk for dramatic effect, and, at my worst, kicking a desk or a locker when all I can see is red and I’m overwhelmed by the desire to choke the life out of some insolent little punk kid.

At some point, at least a couple of times a week, usually once or more a day, my agitation and frustration reach a point where I look around the room, realize that for the past ten minutes I have been screaming and clapping my hands and whistling and flipping the lights on and off and whatever else I’ve tried in order to get the kids attention, and it hasn’t worked at all. At these moments I come to, awakened from a teacherly/disciplinarian daze, and realize that I’m yelling at 30 people and perhaps two of them are even bothering to look at me sideways.

When this happens I stop talking (or yelling or clapping or whatever) and go sit down. Sometimes I stare with great malice at a particular student who happens to be getting on my nerves the most. Sometimes I just rub my eyes and feel very old and impotent. On a “good” day, a few students will notice that I have given up on jabbering questions or instructions at them and will begin to repeatedly yell very loudly for everyone else to shut up.

I appreciate their concern, but it doesn’t help. It only increases the overall volume of the room, because now everyone else has to yell even louder to be heard over the yells of, “Cono! Caia se boca!” Typically an argument breaks out between the students yelling shut up and those who refuse to do so. Often a bold young man or woman will stand up and approach the front of the room to imitate me.

“Si’down. I say be quiet. Take out you no’book. You want referral?”

This goes over big with the class, and even I’ve been known to thaw a little and chuckle at my own expense. It, or any of the other things that typically go on, does not go over as big with administrators or other teachers, who always seem to be shuffling into my room to put something in a file-cabinet or retrieve a stack of papers.

It’s pretty easy to lose track of reality while locked in a room with 30 wild-ass teenagers. Having another adult walk in the room to witness the various strategies I employ to handle things, and their varying degrees of failure, allows one to look at things through someone else’s eyes, and to realize just how ridiculous I must look.

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