I’m really good at a lot of things. I’m a good cook. I know how to identify a variety of native plant and tree species. I can quote virtually every inspirational speech from all five seasons of Friday Night Lights. I’m a good teacher in a lot of ways. I build a great rapport with my kids—even the annoying ones—and I come up with innovative, relevant lesson plans. But there are some things that I’ve never been able to do well. And instead of focusing on those things and making a concerted effort to improve, I’ve decided on another course of action; I’m giving up. Here are the things I will never be good at.
1. I don’t have a pretty classroom.
Y’all folks with your Pinterest and your chevrons and your cute crafts and your organized supplies impress me, you really do. But I will never be one of you. I’ve finally accepted the fact that I am as likely to spend time on Pinterest as I am to sign up for a course in nuclear physics at the community college. Actually, nuclear physics sounds better to me. My room will occasionally meet basic standards of cleanliness (after I scream “This place is a biohazard!” and offer the kids homework passes in exchange for cleaning it for me), but it will never be cute.
2. I’m not good at displaying/keeping student work.
My kids do some amazing work. A better teacher would hang on to it to show future classes, or at least display it on the bulletin board. Not me. I prefer to grade it, then keep it in a neat, ready-to-display stack for several months until I finally need that corner of the classroom for another student project, then throw it away because I’m embarrassed to pass back work from September when it’s already February.
3. I don’t require organized binders.
People who keep a list of assignments that students should have in their binders: How? Just … how? I couldn’t keep an organized binder in high school, and I sure as hell can’t do it now. I know that some kids really need a teacher who will stay on top of them and make sure they keep their stuff where it’s supposed to be. But I am not that teacher. Sorry, kids.
4. I have trouble maintaining a teacherly persona.
I can do it for, like, 15 minutes at the beginning of class. After that, it gets dicey. I know that sarcasm in the classroom is supposed to be a bad thing. I know that confessing my childhood crush on Rafael—as in the red Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle—is probably not my most professional move. I know that yelling, “If you lose this permission slip again, I will staple it to your forehead” could get you negative points on an evaluation. But being consistently calm and rational and professional is outside my capability. Also, where’s the fun in that?
5. I don’t give rewards.
If I keep candy in my room, I will eat it. Unless it’s crappy candy, like Laffy Taffy, in which case I will wait several days and then eat it, except for the banana ones. I always admire teachers who go to the Oriental Trading Company website and get the kind of crappy plastic prizes that kids completely adore, then have an organized system for distributing said prizes. I tried to be one of those teachers for a while. The prizes sat in my desk, filling me with rage every time they jammed a drawer (approximately 87,000 times a day) until I finally threw them all away in a fit of pique and yelled at kids for trying to get them out of the trash can. Not worth it. Definitely not worth it.
6. I never stay on topic.
This one is sometimes an intentional choice. If we’ve spent 20 minutes on prepositional phrases, a five-minute rant about the stupidity of buying a $100 giant teddy bear for Valentine’s Day might be exactly the brain break we all need. Do I occasionally spend half a class period strategizing the end of the year Capture the Flag game instead of working on research papers? Yep. I do. And I don’t think that’s likely to change.
This barely scratches the surface of ways I’m failing as a teacher. We haven’t even started talking about technology, let alone pop culture references! I also have the dubious honor of sending more kids to the clinic for injuries incurred during in-class activities than anybody else in the building.
But consider this the opposite of a New Year’s resolution. I intend to continue to suck proudly at certain aspects of my job while I work on the things that are more important to me, like building relationships with my kids and their families, and perfecting the tap dance routine I do when the kids aren’t paying attention. How about you? What are you giving up on this year?