Impressing People

For some obscure reason, people occasionally think I know what I’m doing.

I swung by a colleague’s office the other day with the full intention of procrastinating on my grading, only to have my colleague look up from her desk and sigh.

“What?” I asked, immediately worried that I’d done something wrong.

“Rough day,”  she said.  “Rough teachers.  I was thinking about swinging by your room for the last hour of the day just to restore my faith in educators.”

This particular colleague, a professional-development-organizing, board-of-director-training, statewide-connected, new-schools-initiative guru knows entirely too much to be in my classroom.

“Um…” I said.  “Well…ah…huh?”

“I just wanted to to see someone teach well today.”

“Ehrm…” I stated definitively, having no idea what she was talking about.  I was fairly certain that that day alone I had threatened to throw a child out the window, whacked another with a roll of papers, and nearly taken out a third’s eyeball by launching a sharpened pencil across the room.   (In my self-defense, it was the thirtieth flippin’ time he had forgotten to bring a writing utensil)

“I have a study hall seventh hour,” I finally said, both successfully forming a complete sentence and dodging having the educator-expert-guru in my classroom.

“Ah.  What a shame.  Guess I’ll just catch up on my emails, then,” said my colleague.  I, in turn, headed back to my classroom to supervise the final period of insanity that, I’m fairly certain, involved a rousing game of cards in one corner, iPod listening in another, and gossip about who was dating whom in a third.  It’s possible a couple of kids were also studying, but who really knows.

And yet, for whatever inexplicable reason, I haven’t been fired.

Perhaps it’s my shining ability in using hyperbole and sarcasm.

Or maybe I’m just that cute.

Regardless as to the logic or lack thereof in my continued employment, I figured that if I’ve pulled the wool over the eyes of those who know what they’re doing I could at least offer a small amount of advice to those being beaten down by their spotless over-competency.  You can lesson plan all day (or weekend, as some of you show-offy Type A-ers do), read up on all the latest theories and listen oh-so-attentively to every word the Educator Masters utter.

You’ll still go down in flames.

Rookie or veteran teacher alike, there’s really only two things you have to do to impress the powers that be.  Or, at a minimum, to try and retain your job.

  1. Wing It.

Lesson Plan Schmesson Plan.  If you’re still writing Madeline-Hunter-esque lessons that take more detailed thought than disarming a nuclear bomb with one arm, you might as well go bake a cake then drop it on the local highway right before a parade of semi trucks with oversized wheels.

What?  Don’t get that metaphor?

Well, then, stop.

You’re thinking too damn hard.  Which is exactly your problem.  You’re gonna put all this forethought into your lesson plans like “Oooh, if I do A, then Johnny will do B and the rest of the class will do C and we’ll ABC all together!”  When, in reality, what’s really going to happen is that you will do A, Johnny will do Q, the rest of the class will do  Ñ, which isn’t even in the English alphabet, then the fire alarm will go off, Suzie will throw up. and Bobby will get a bloody nose.

But if you’re only winging it?

You waltz through the day by the seat of your pants and make it look like you planned it all.  You appear to be the most graceful of  problem solvers in unexpected situations.  If you know you don’t know what is going to happen, then it’s all an expected surprise, and if it’s expected, then it isn’t much of a surprise at all.  You’re just rolling with the punches and all you need to assure your prowess in dealing with the expectedly unexpected is one final skill:

2. Don’t Blink.

A crazy mom tracks you down and starts yelling at you in the hallway.  Admin drops a bomb on you two minutes before you teach your hardest class. A kid calls you a curse word then punches his neighbor.

Just. Don’t Blink.

People who don’t blink always look like they’re calm and collected (although really these are the folks you should watch out for because they’re probably the most likely to snap, which, I would argue, is a fair description of most educators).  Combine the zen-like zombie stare of “you-can’t-shake-me” with the fly-by-night problem solving, and voilá…

You magically look like you know what you’re doing.  (Even if, on the inside, you have to wonder how Johnny got a pencil stuck up his nose…again…at age seventeen…)

Oh, what problem-solving skills!  Oh, what adept ability at dealing with shenanigans!  Such a cool cucumber in the face of adversity!

And you, only you, will know that really, as teachers…

We’re just making it all up as we go.

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16 Responses to Impressing People

  1. libbyhall says:

    Soooo true! Preschool teachers do the same thing–wing it!

  2. Pops says:

    The true path to all professional expertise: act like you know what you’re doing–and don’t blink.

  3. Daphne says:

    My question finally answered – I blinked. Dammit.

  4. David says:

    Like the duck who is paddling furiously under the water, you glide gracefully on the surface, and yes, you don’t blink!

  5. playsuite says:

    This is hilarious, I’ve spent this year learning all about lesson planning and unit planning at University, and next year for practical experience, I will just have to act like I know exactly what I’m doing and hope to heavens that I learn to master it.

  6. Karen Moorefield says:

    I just discovered your blog from facebook. As a middle school teacher, where hormones rage and attitude reigns supreme, I can give you the lowdown on this child to adult stage of development. It is only with humor that we teachers survive it. However, there is plenty of food for fodder from theeeeessssseeee babies.

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