Coffee, Books, Reflection
One of the nice...interesting...intriguing...hilarious... [pick your own adjective] things about teaching freshmen is they sometimes forget that my classroom door opens into their locker bay. They also forget that I have ears & can hear them, especially when my room is silent. Most teens forget that voices carry & live by the "out of sight, out of mind" theory. This means I overhear some very interesting things.
The other day, I heard a student tell another student, "She thinks we can read 2 chapters tonight? Mrs. Straube is the meanest teacher in the world."
I am a mature & reasonable adult. This means I laughed out loud. I'm not sure the student noticed it was me, but I stopped listening after that. It's always best if you (1) don't figure out who the voice belongs to and (2) don't listen when people say things behind your back.
This student did transport me back to childhood, however. When I was little, I would often force my niece and nephew to play school. Naturally, 4 years their senior, I was the teacher. This was not negotiable (until we were a bit older and my nephew corrected my spelling on the chalkboard and I decided snarky kids were hard to teach and we played something else). Anyway, these kids had homework, lots of it. Lots and lots of it. So many math problems. Dozens of spelling words. Science experiments like crazy. In short, they often said I was "the meanest teacher in the world."
Once, my brother asked me if I intended to be the meanest teacher in the world when I grew up. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time, and my niece and nephew were being squirrel-like pupils and I was reprimanding them (likely loudly, I was a born yeller). I told him, "Yes, mean teachers make you learn."
This became a running joke in my family. I was raised by pretty strict but very loving parents. I attended a strict but fair & balanced Catholic grade school. My favorite teachers in high school were tough, kind, and gave us lots of important work. My favorite college professor was funny, told great stories, and once made me cry in class not meanly, but because I felt like I had disappointed him. All of these people were strict, fair, and still kind. That's really what I meant by "mean."
Now, as a teacher in my 7th year, I've been called the meanest teacher in the world. I'm sure this isn't the first time, but this is the first time it was in earshot and not under someone's breath. I hope that student meant strict, that I challenge him/her, and that he/she is learning.
I shared this story with my 7th hour students, telling them I'd achieved a major life goal. They laughed, asked if I was having "an existential crisis," and asked me what I would do next. [They also offered to brainstorm new goals if necessary, but only if they could get out of discussing TKAM] I told them I planned to keep being mean, which made them laugh more. A classroom that often erupts in laughter, praises those who work hard and pushes those who don't, and also involves a lot of reminders of the importance of kindness can be a little "mean" now and then.
Seriously, though, what will I do next?
The views on this blog are mine alone and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.
Kari teaches English I to 9th graders (!) and other electives in rural Iowa. Her husband is also an English teacher, and their friends have sworn to never help them move again because "even libraries don't have that many books."