Friday, May 1, 2009


Ladies and gentlemen, yesterday was an important day.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my becoming a real live teacher. One year ago, on April 30, 2008, I walked in to a school in the northeast as a substitute teacher.

Four hours later I walked out in tears.

It. Was. Awful.

The teacher had left a movie for the kids to watch, but they didn't like it. When my back was turned, the little creeps took the teacher's movie out and put their own in. When I put the original film back in the player, they unplugged the projector and started throwing things at each other.

Meanwhile, three of them had got hold of the teacher's chair (with my jacket on the back) and were racing it up and down the hallway outside of class, one as passenger clinging on for dear life, and two pushing.

Now, I don't have too many illusions about subbing: it's hard work. Teaching, at its core, is about relationships, and when you just walk into a place for a day you can't form any kind of relationship with 30 kids for an hour or so at a time. It takes a hell of a lot more time than that to get things to a point where you know and trust one another. But still.

I left after school, got into my car, and called my friend C. "It was horrible!" I said. I was laughing to keep from sobbing. "What have I done? I can't be a teacher if it's like this!"

You will be glad to know that things have improved.

I love this job. It's harder than any other work I've ever done - I put in two fourteen-hour days this week alone, not counting my marking - but it is so rewarding. You can't fake your way through it; you have to be real all the time. Everything you give comes back to you, though, especially that amazing moment when your students finally really get what you're teaching. It's magic.

One of my ESL students asked me how much education I have. When I told him, he looked very impressed. "Wow," he said, "are you doing to do something real with all that?"

"Teaching is real!" I protested.

"Well, okay," says he, "but you don't make very much money, do you?"

Never mind the money. I make a difference. I've made a difference for a year now, and it's been real every single day.

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