exploring, examining, exchanging, expressing
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Mood Swings
It's tough not to let my mood carry over into the classroom. If I don't feel well, I still need to act energetic and enthusiastic. If I'm grumpy, I'm supposed to turn my frown upside down. It's about playing the part, getting into character. When I'm in front of the whiteboard, I'm not a real person. I'm a teacher. My students don't need to know about my troubles. They just need someone to get them excited about learning English.

I know when I was in school, especially in the earliest grades, I didn't think of my teachers as normal people. They were babysitters and disciplinarians. They were givers of homework and tests. I didn't consider what their lives were like outside of the classroom. Looking back, I didn't know much about them at all. When I would see them out in the real world, outside of school, it was always a little odd. There was a disconnect. They needed to be behind a desk or by a chalkboard.

In college, it seemed like some of the best professors treated their students almost like peers. Some would even socialize with us outside of class. And by this point, I saw my instructors as normal folks. They had bad habits and personal issues and everything. But I still didn't appreciate the fact that their job involved putting on a "teacher mask" every day so that they could stand in front of a motley crew of students and try to enlighten them. I guess it just didn't occur to me that there were some days that they probably didn't want to be there.

If you work in an office and you feel like crap, you can generally hide at your desk. You can find work to do that doesn't involve dealing with too many other people. Sometimes you can even work from home and avoid everyone altogether. But a teacher's job is to deal with people, to interact with them. It's like a service-industry job. A waitress that doesn't want to socialize with customers isn't going to make too many tips. A grumpy salesman won't move many wares. And a teacher that can't face students isn't going to expand too many minds.

It's enough to make me want to go back and thank all of the teachers I've had over the course of my life. I want to thank them for putting up with roomfuls of brats. I want to thank them for simply showing up when they had the blues and would've rather stayed home. I can only think of a few of my teachers, very few, that ever really lost it in the classroom. That's pretty amazing considering what they dealt with.

Me? Today I snapped at one of my students. The entire class was being rowdy today. It started out with only one or two of them acting out. But in a small class, it doesn't take much for everything to fall apart. Of course, in a conversation class, we want to encourage talking. It's even okay to get a little off-topic, so long as the discussion is worthwhile. It's fine to have fun. Happy brains retain more knowledge. But things were getting out of control. And this particular student, who is often a handful, really got to me. I wasn't mean or hateful, but I was far more stern than I've ever been with them before. The whole class got quiet for a moment. And then we got back on track. The rest of our time was fruitful and enjoyable.

I'm not good with discipline. It's a skill unto itself. I didn't think it would be a issue with adults who were paying good money for a course. But I guess students are students, no matter the situation. I have to learn how to handle them. At least I'm not alone. After class, I heard two other teachers talking about some problem students. They both have more experience than me and they're still frustrated by the situation.