I get a million decent ideas for blog posts as I go through my days at school, but, since I don't write them down (I know, shame on me), I get to my deadline and forget everything I thought about blogging. Except for one thing: the fact that I am woefully, entirely unable to keep a straight face around teenagers.
I teach middle school here in beautiful New York City, as you probably know. And as anyone who teaches middle school knows, there is not a group of people on Earth who more desperately wish to be taken seriously despite being the most petty, self-involved, short-sighted people you have ever met except perhaps for schools chancellors (OH NO YOU DI'NT, MISS EYRE) than middle school students.
I try very hard to keep a straight face with my babies. Sometimes it gives me great satisfaction to do so, like when they launch into some long complicated story about something that is of GREAT IMPORTANCE right at that moment, probably one that is supposed to result in a semi-plausible excuse for them having done or not done something. I like how they assume I am interested. Indeed, I do an excellent job of pretending that I am.
Please don't think, from my flippant tone, that I dismiss students' real problems. I am not so silly as to disregard the real, heartrending, serious problems some students do have, and I think I have been an advocate and even a friend to students in those circumstances. But, again, we middle school teachers know that dealing with teenagers is usually a combination of humoring them, setting very firm limits with them, laughing on the inside, and, occasionally, laughing on the outside.
So that brings me back to today's thesis: I cannot keep a straight face with my kids. Just can't. I was already laughing with them on the first day of school. They crack me right up. They make me laugh at myself and at the absurdities of school here in NYC. They speak truth to power when I would like to do so. When they start to trust you, they are refreshingly honest, and they will tell you what they really think of the strange little environment in which they find themselves, and you will learn from them.
I guess I just have too much fun at work, and I guess that Pissed Off Teacher's post from today also sort of inspired me to admit that I break the old "Don't smile till Christmas/Halloween/Thanksgiving/whatever" rule every single year. But the kids really do make me smile just about every day. And when I'm subjected to things like, oh, I don't know, just about every meaningful policy in my school being changed twenty-four hours before the school year began, I have to remind myself that the kids bring me more joy, laughter, surprises, insight, and inspiration than I ever thought possible.
In other news, I have a short and funny post about independent reading taking an unexpected twist over at my own blog. I also want to blog there soon about the Gates/UFT evaluation initiative. It's a pretty provocative topic for me since the issue of teacher evaluation is close to my heart.