What It’s Like: Teaching Kids

Some contents of my purse serve as the muse for tonight’s post. Inside my purse are some meat-pie looking pastries, carefully wrapped in a napkin, a gift from an Azerbaijani grandmother.

I tutor two great kids a couple nights a week. I tutor them in English: reading, writing, and speaking. Their grandmother is in town, visiting from their home country, Azerbaijan, a place I’d barely heard of before meeting these children a few months ago.

About 12 years ago or so, I started a career as a school teacher. I taught elementary aged kids. After I did that for a few years, I transitioned to a job in corporate America, and taught at the collegiate level (freshmen and juniors) on the side for a few years.

Now, I am tutoring two kids and two adults. I’ll write about the adults in another post, perhaps.

When I changed from teaching kids to college adults, many of whom were older than me, everybody and their momma asked me the same question: How is it different? My go-to, cheeky answer was always, “You don’t have to take adults to the bathroom.” Karma laughed at me and once sent me an adult student who did ask, on several occasions, if she could go to the bathroom.

Teaching is kind of “old hat” to me now; even when I meet new students, I have now done it long enough that I can at least PRETEND to know what I am doing. It takes a lot of practice to even get the confidence to be able to pretend to be a confident teacher, unless you’re kind of a pompous, know it all asshole, which in that case, please do  us all a favor and stay out of the classroom. What I’m trying to say is, teaching should have a sense of respect and humility, both for your students and for your profession.

Teaching kids is challenging in its own way. Children are PAYING ATTENTION. Don’t believe the horseshit you hear on the news about how six in one children have ADHD. They might, be even then, they’re still closely paying attention to everything you do. EVERYTHING. Understand the difference between paying attention and judging you. The kids are attentive; the adults are probably judgmental.

Children aren’t thinking about bills or if they took the chicken out to unthaw. Depending on their age, they may not have a good sense of embarrassment or self awareness. They’re doing their thing and watching you do yours.

With kids, it’s a lot of work to exemplify an excellent role model, pretty much at all times. When I taught elementary school, I did not cuss, not even on the weekends. I just recently started to feel comfortable saying the word “stupid”, even though I’ve taught for years. Working in the oilfield helped me develop a hearty potty mouth, which I thoroughly enjoy, but you’d never know that when I am around young and impressionable ears.

Kids are also way smarter than most adults give them credit for. Children pick up on and absorb energy better than adults, too. If you let your child know your burdens, they will help you carry them, regardless if you have asked them to or not. I once worked with a kindergartner who came to school looking very concerned. He eventually began to cry. When I pried an answer from him, he told me that he was worried because his mom and dad “were down to their last $5,000.” He had overheard them fighting about money and even though he couldn’t even count to 500 or 5,000, his little mind could clearly interpret that something big and scary was wrong, so he worried about it. He internalized it.

I have dozens of stories like that; stories of children truly being sponges, and not always soaking up the good stuff.

Teaching a child also has a weight to it, at least it does for me. Since children have much less life experience, I find it to be so important to do two things: 1) be present with them while you are around them because 2) that affects their perception of the world.

A child that experiences an angry parent can grow up to be worrisome and fearful. A child that experiences a neglectful (physically or emotionally) parent will fight the demons of inadequacy for the rest of his life.

It is really an honor to be able to be a teacher. The job REALLY SUCKS, but it’s still an honorable one. Between utterly ridiculous parents, pushy school districts, and insane principals, I have no idea how I survived with even a shred of sanity in tact. Oh, and don’t forget the year that I had strep throat three times and my vocal chords became infected, which irrevocably changed the sound of my voice. Almost no one that I know now actually know what I used to sound like. Ah, that was fun. Good times.

Kudos to you if you’re a teacher. The job can be so damn thankless, but from one former teacher to another, I THANK YOU.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

Cheat Day #1

I predicted this.

I predicted, before I started this experiment, this commitment, that some days, I will just be exhausted and not have the will to write.

What will I do on these days? Break my commitment to writing everyday? Well, no , not exactly, but kind of.

On these days, let’s call this cheat day #1, I will share something that I have written in the past. The rules are: 1) It can be anything that I have written in the past and 2) I will not edit it to change the meaning or tone of what I meant at that time.

So, please enjoy this strange, one page anecdote that I wrote way back, almost 7 years ago, on 08/24/2011.

ENJOY

 

A day in the life of corporate America (or The Little Leaf that Could)

 

Today at work, I was sitting outside the building, taking what I like to call my non-smoker smoke break. I came up with this idea after seeing fellow smoking co-workers eagerly plod down the hallway past my office, off to take their smoke breaks. I became a bit jealous, admittedly, and decided to simply go outside, too (and not smoke).

So there I sat, on the green, cast iron rocking chairs in front of my building. A young, blond girl from Human Resources, in all of her young and blonde glory, came by and asked what I was doing. I thought the answer to that question was rather obvious. I was obviously sitting in a chair, rocking back forth, hence the name of the chair. That description describes one hundred percent of my activity at that time. But, I knew her asking the obvious question was an attempt to make conversation, so I decided to one-up her. Not only would I answer her question; I would answer it with a bit of wit and humor.

“I am warming up,” I said, referring to the freezing 65°F that is the normal temperature for our office building.

“Ha ha…that shouldn’t take too long,” she replied. She went on to chat for a few more minutes about some topic in which I was even less interested. I was honestly very happy to see her enter the building. I was tired of both envying her gorgeous shoes and feigning interest in her uninteresting story.

So, returned to my peaceful sitting. No iPhone in my hand. No computer in front of me. Just sitting. And just then, I had an epiphany. Instead of just looking straight ahead (into the parking lot full of good ole’ boy trucks parked next to pretentious eco-friendly trash), why won’t I look UP? UP! UP!! How often do adults look up at the clouds? I wondered to myself. So, I looked up. I relaxed my fluffy ponytail and head on the back of the chair and looked up at the sky. My eyes seemed to react…they seemed to wonder what I was doing. I decided to try to find shapes in the clouds, like little kids do (or something).

I looked for a few seconds when from the corner of my left eye, I saw a small leaf fluttering down, seemingly coming from nowhere. It made its slow descent and landed on one of the tables. I was almost shocked. No, I was completely shocked. Shocked because there are no trees around for quite some distance. There are especially no trees on top of the building. And the leaf just seemed to float down from exactly nowhere.

I looked around. I looked up. Not wanting to seem silly or even the least bit un-cool, I casually stood up and stretched. I even faked a little moan when I stretched, you know, to seem like my stretch was the most authentic stretch ever stretched. I sauntered over to the leaf and looked down. I looked up again, to try to see where it may have come from. Still, no idea. I picked up the small leaf and looked into the windows of the building next to me. The dark tint prevented me from seeing how many people were staring down at me and this incredible, appearing from nowhere, little leaf.

I knew that there were probably dozens of people sitting at their desks inside the building, just cheering me on to keep the leaf and one day describe the awesomeness that broke up the monotony of their corporate America lives. This leaf would have to represent all that we wanted to be- free and floating carelessly, not frozen by overzealous air conditioning or fattened by our sedimentary lifestyles. And all of our freedom would have to come out of nowhere, just like the little leaf.