|happier daze...hanging at the park with my girl student crew|
9 Reasons Why I Feel I sucked as a Teacher
When I told my former boss that I wanted to quit teaching, he ripped up my letter of resignation in my face, walked over to the trashcan and dumped it. “You can’t be serious. You’re a great teacher, Les, the kids love you; you can’t leave them! What’s wrong with you?”
It was the second time I had tried to quit that year. It was my fourth year of teaching and although I had considered quitting before, it seemed then whenever this feeling returned it came back stronger, more intense.
I have always wanted to teach. I was fortunate enough to have had some amazing teachers in my life who have had a major influence in contributing to how I think and what I think about. From my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Stein who introduced me to the many cultures of Native America to Mr. Coffey my high school math teacher who I would get in free at Mars Club in the meatpacking district of Manhattan because my brother DJ’d there, and with whom I can say I cultivated a friendship which still lasts to this day.
I have worked a variety of jobs throughout my life. I have worked in restaurants, retail stores, corporate offices and when I moved to Copenhagen 15 years ago, I got to fulfill one of my dreams to work in the field of education when I was hired to work in the largest international school here in Copenhagen. I worked in administration and although the job had many perks, I have to admit that once into my 4th year there, I was getting ready to do something a bit more challenging. I started to get that itch- that itch to find or create something different for myself. So when a former colleague called me one day and asked if I would like to come teach English at a school I had once substituted and had grown to love, I jumped at the chance and despite a considerable drop in salary, went into the field of teaching.
But it didn’t work for me. I loved the kids. The kids loved me. So did the parents and I got along with most of my co-workers. No one wanted me to leave. So what was the problem? Well, after giving it much thought, I came up with a list of why I quit teaching or rather, 9 reasons why I feel I sucked as a teacher.
1). I smoke. At this point in time, we all know that smoking cigarettes leads to all sorts of disgusting, seemingly irreversible diseases. Although my school had a smoking section for the teachers (outside) I could never get used to the random kid who did accidentally pass by while I had a cigarette in my hand. The coolest thing though, is seeing how many kids think smoking is so uncool. It would have been great if I just quit, but smoking was something I picked up again once I started teaching. Seems like I felt it necessary to have smoker’s breath coupled with the coffee I had every morning. Poor kids.
2). I love spontaneity. Nothing kills my spirit more than routine. I get why it’s important to have some structure, but I also believe in the relief of breaking a pattern. To be fair, I was given a lot of space to be myself with my students, and for that I am thankful. I am thankful to be an adult who stood amongst kids and implored them, “go, be kids!” I enjoyed surprising my students with days where we did things off the beaten-path like take walks around the lake or talk about something that was borne out of a students’ interest.
3). I’m grumpy in the morning. I’m not a morning person. I think it’s uncivilized to make human beings face each other 8 in the morning. Cruel.
4). I have a confession to make. Sometimes if a student got mad at me and called me names, like prostitute, I would get really upset. (when you’re a teacher you quickly realize that this opens you up to a host of insults being hurled at you from kids ). I hated when I got emotional something a kid would say. Now I understand the value of being authentic with your students and they have to learn that you too are human: but being a teacher made me want to really rise above it. Although I got much better throughout the years, I realized that I was just too darn sensitive to teach!
5). I always forgot my students’ names. Okay, that’s not entirely true – although I’ve done the occasional mixing up of names before. What I mean is this: I would experience this dread whenever I bumped into my former students. See, I would have this fear that I would experience that awkward moment where I wouldn’t remember the students’ names, and what do you think would happen? Viola – like magic – I would forget a name which I would promptly remember 1 second after walking away from some crushed adolescent.
6). I hate exams! Down with exams! Students should not be encouraged to enter a culture of stress. We invent these exams. Let’s invent something else for our children. Something that encourages them to relax and be better students, citizens, family members and friends. Everytime I administered an exam I felt like I was selling my class of kids down the river.
7) Speaking of exams, another thing I really don’t like is the idea of authority. I get that in order for this society to work in the way that it does, you “need” to have some kind of "authority". Okay, if you say so. But I felt incredibly uncomfortable with that as teacher I rule over you role that many get so drunk by. Yeah, how sad is it to get drunk with the power of teacher?
8). I hate being locked up in a classroom and having to sit still. One of the groups of students I really identified with were the children diagnosed with ADHD. Having to sit/stand in a classroom for hours on end is a torture I can’t in any good conscious execute. I like to move around, get fresh air do something radical like sit someplace different.
9). I hate meetings. I learned in my short stint in teaching that if you want to teach, you have to spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings. Meetings are so boring! Although I got a lot of crocheting and knitting done in many of these meetings (and made substantial contributions!) there is a certain tone meetings get when a group of adults sit down and decide to have one. Petty power feuds are played out and emotions run high. I mean, do we all really need to all be there?!? Ugh.