the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘teacher’

a lesson for teachers: KEEP LEARNING NEW STUFF!!

In career, life, teaching & education, Uncategorized on December 1, 2012 at 7:33 am

I teach.

I am good at it.


Better question: Why am I putting in all these line breaks?

I’ll stop now.

I promise.

OK. Back to why I’m not so bad in the classroom.  I like it.  There’s that.  I guess I like helping others.  But I don’t like the sound of that because I don’t know if that really gets at it.  I’m just not that noble.  I’m ok with people–possible reason?  I’m not a social being, though.  I have a pretty high tolerance for solitude. At parties, I tend to get bored and want to read something.  I had a buddy in grad school who used to say that my social battery was limited.  I agree. But get me in the classroom, and I can go and go like the Energizer Bunny.  Why?

There’s a little theater to it, I guess.  I also really like trying to get my students to see that they can do things, which I guess is noble.  Please don’t tell.

Regardless of why after all these many years, I’ve become a decent teacher, the idea has lately crossed my mind that I do not want to keep at it if I’m doing so for the wrong reasons.  Or to put it simply, I don’t want to prove true that old, hack saying about teachers teaching because they CAN’T do other things.  That would make me lame and hypocritical, and if there’s one thing my savvy students pick up on is lame hypocrites.

I spend my days trying to get them to overcome their fear of learning new things.  Most of my students who don’t “like school,” are really “scared of school.”  They are scared because they know they don’t know how to do what I am asking them to do.  And not knowing is scary when you know you don’t know.

That sentence read like the bad philosophy I used to read in college–I need a line break to recover.

Back to teaching: over the years, as I have become comfortable in my position, I think I’ve forgotten how it feels to have to learn something new.  Because of the new stuff I am trying to learn in order to get the new site up and my writing career up and running, I have experienced the same anxiety when faced with not knowing that my students face when looking at an equation or a right triangle.  I know that have often wanted to run from learning how to place images in an HTML file; I have put off trying my hand at a film editing program because it just seemed too complicated. I have thought the following thoughts in rapid succession:

It just all seems so hard.

It’s too hard.

I can’t handle it.

I’m lame.

I’m dumb.

How many times have I heard these words coming from my students? How many times have I shushed them, smacked them in the head with a pencil (lovingly, of course) and reassured them?  Time for me to do the same thing for myself.  Not easy, I know.  Maybe learning requires bravery.  I need to be braver to be a better teacher.



But can I say it?  Film editing programs are not very easy.


diary of a wimpy teacher…

In humor, life, observations, teaching & education on February 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

A short story followed by a question (or three) for your Sunday non-Superbowl obsessed moments:

Because I am not obsessed about football and because I am poor, I am spending my Sunday tutoring the very wealthy children of Silicon Valley. My first session today was with the daughter of a man who I’ve been told is one of the richest men in the area. I believe this by the look of his Italian villa of a house. Stereotypes, being what they are, you might think that his offspring would be a spoiled brat. Well, stereotypes have their time, and this is one of them. The young heiress is not one to be pushed too far–that much was clear from today’s session.

To give you an idea, she has gone through four high schools in as many years and I am the 7th tutor she has gone through in the last year–lucky number 7.  My job has been to lead the princess–she uses the title in her email, btw–through an independent study of her freshman English class, a class that for some reason I never asked about she was unable to complete.

As a teacher, I generally think of myself as being able to walk the line between killing a student with rules  and holding to some semblance of academic standards. I think some educators are just sticklers for the sake of sticklerness, but on the other hand, there are too many burn-out teachers who don’t care and who let their students do anything they want.

Well, Houston, I think we have a problem, and the problem is that I am crossing over. Today, as I was helping my student make her essay stronger, she kind of flipped out. The princess is moody, I knew that much already. But one moment, I’m asking her if she could make her argument better by adding a quote, and the next moment, she’s raising her voice and telling me that she’s getting frustrated and that I’m the cause.

Nothing new. I get a lot of young people getting frustrated–it’s called learning something hard.  As a result, I have learned not to be thrown by the anger coming my way.  I lower my voice and gently but firmly point out that I am on the same team and I want to help. I appreciate that learning is hard at times, and we’re all human and humans can’t always be learning machines. I get that. But I also stand my ground and let the student know that she needs to breathe and not get all aggro at the people trying to help–i.e., me.

Today, however, I couldn’t be bothered. Yes, I felt it. I felt myself crossing into the Lands of the Lost and Unconcerned.  The princess wanted to yell and didn’t want to make her essay better, and I was like, “OK, fine. Good enough.”

Good enough? Really? These are the words of apathy. These are the words of that English teacher who is a lifer and is waiting for retirement and/or death.

So here is your test, dear reader.  Don’t worry, it’s a multiple-choice exam:

Am I

A.  A wimpy teacher?

B.  Getting tired and should I hang up the chalk?

C.  Being all Yoda-like, conserving energy, stressing not? (btw, Was Yoda a wimp?  )

Your answers will be graded on a curve.

a teacher’s quandary: when’s the right time for tough love?

In life, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on June 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

teaching in the Mission is full of but's

I hate waking up early when I’m up late the night before.  (The fact that I’m always up late basically means I always hate getting up early.)  But this morning, I got my tired butt up so that I could take a student to her last exam of the GED.  This student can be, for lack of a better word, a piece of work.  She has cursed me out for helping her, she shows up to class often after partaking of her “medicine”.  (This being the Bay Area, medicine is code for pot.)  And though she can be sweet, she has some pretty radical mood shifts when faced with variables and radicals.

Still, I have love for this person because I feel like she’s one of those damaged people who just needs an extra hand.  This is why I was willing to get up and give her a ride, and why I have put up with her.  (Though I did kick her out one time when she was too much–even by her high standards.)

Because I know she is deathly scared of writing, and this morning, her exam required her to write an essay, I knew she needed some support.  I also should’ve known things weren’t going to work out when I called her to make sure she was up.  She was groggy and she was kind of annoyed, but I pushed on and told her to be ready.  When I got to her house, she was all set, but something told me to ask her if she had her ID.  (The state requires ID for her to get into the test.)  She said no, and then went back into the house and didn’t come back.  Minutes passed.  I called her, and she told me she couldn’t find her wallet and that she was mad.  Then the line went dead.

There was a not-so small part of me that wanted go up her door and give her a curse-out.  I wanted to tell her to stop being such a f*ck up.  She’s pushing forty.  She needs to get her life together.  I’m not paid to be her chauffeur, etc. etc.

I said none of these things, of course.  I drove off, went to a bakery near my house and bought an orange bun, which I will spend the evening having to run off.  Tomorrow or Friday, I will text her and remind her to come back to class.  I’ll also go sign her up for a make-up test, and she’ll take it in July and pass it.  And if you’re thinking that I’m being a dumb-dumb about this, and that if not yell, I should at least have a serious talk with her, I’d say I can see your point, but…

But sh*t happens, and anyone can misplace their wallet.

But I am her teacher, not her parent.  And as such, my job is to get her to achieve this elusive goal of finishing something–anything–she started.

But she actually has the following signature on her text messages: “motivate in 2011”, which means she knows she’s struggling, and piling on is not going to help.

But my anger is personal and a little selfish. Though I want her to pass so that she can move on, I also wanted to add her to my pass column so I can show my boss and my funders in City Hall that I run a great program.

But, but, but, but.

My life as a teacher of people who struggle to do what many of us take for granted is full of buts.  But (yes here is one more) it is full of joy and hope.  I like what I do–even when I have to get my tired butt (another but, but different) up out bed only to eat an overly-caloried piece of goodness.  Tough love sounds good.  It is sometimes necessary.  However, (note: I avoided yet another but) at least for me, it is a tool of last resort.

the Teaching Life…

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2010 at 6:27 am

I’m a teacher.  Most days, aside from the usual little run-ins with students, my job is a good one.  But the other night, I experienced the the emotional extremes of the job.  In one class, I almost killed a student who one hour later, I wanted to hug.

I teach English at a vocational school–one of those places that you see commercials for during the day.  This means that my students often don’t want to take my class even though they have to.  I try to make my classes as painless as possible, but still, there’s only so much a teacher can do.

Every class is different and like individuals, each has its own personality.  In one of my late-night classes, I have a student who often complains all the time.  He’s in his thirties, but whines like an old lady.  I try not to let him bother me, but the other night, I couldn’t deal.  I didn’t say anything, but I’m pretty sure he got the message from the look I shot him.

I normally would’ve just felt guilty over this, but later that night, I had a chance to read this complaining student’s draft of his first paper, and I was moved.  He had gotten the asignment, which was challenging, in a way that I would never have thought possible.  Though he’s not always the most mature person in person, he is one of the wisest writers I’ve read in a long time.  How does that happen?

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