I have a pimple on my face. Two, actually. You might wonder how this is possibly blog worthy, but give me a chance…
See, when I was a first year teacher, I remember distinctly the fear with which I entered the classroom pimpled. “Would the kids notice? Would they take me less seriously? Would it lead them to realize that I was so young and completely inexperienced?” Was I ever so foolish?
Your first year of teaching should be like your middle school years: out of bounds for self-critique or external judgment. Too bad you’re in charge of educating 30 young minds rather than just mastering Pre-Algebra.
My first year I grew a beard (I ritualistically shaved it the day school ended), I incessantly wore a tie, and I even considered buying a faux-wedding ring. All of this was out of the earnest belief that my children didn’t already realize that I had no idea what I was doing and that controlling such superficial elements would somehow improve my command of the classroom. As a first year teacher, I was supremely self-conscious and utterly self-centered. In my class, it was all about me. A good day, a bad day, I was certain that it was purely my practice that decided it. Consequently, I easily convinced myself that the personal minutia really mattered. I knew, theoretically, that my kids were coming to school hungry or watching their uncle get knifed in the front-yard, but I was semi-consciously willing to set that aside and I decided that if my shirt was pressed, they would learn.
My second year was a little better. I had a degree of confidence and, to a smaller extent, competence. I was still nervous though. Things seemed to be going so well, I was worried that at any point I might derail it. I was anxious that if I let up for a minute, all would be lost. Rather than the denial of first year : “Pimple? No, it’s a bug bite.” (I actually said that!) it was the hell-bent for achievement tirade, “Pimple? Why are you talking about pimples? Is that in the problem? Don’t you know you’re three grade levels behind? We don’t have time to talk about me, do the math.”
Now, in my third year, I think I’m starting to see the pimple for what it is: a rarity on the face of someone who’s leaving the acne-ridden-age of adolescence behind and absolutely meaningless in regards to education. Now, when the little voice chirps, “Mr. AB, you have a pimple!” it’s met with “Pimple? You’re 10, I’m 25. Come back in five years and we’ll see who’s laughing about pimples. Get back to work.”
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