My high school’s school year ends almost a month after my college’s school year, and so the dorms kicked me out before my student teaching was really over. No worries, though; I found a temporary place for the disparity and for the rest of the summer.
I’m rooming with two elementary school teachers, one high school teacher and a nurse. The older of the two elementary teachers — the two of them are mother and daughter — is a first-year teacher, as I hope to be next year, and she says she’s been pretty successful.
I’ve been teaching all my life.
She had been at FoodMaxx, a discount warehouse grocery store, climbing the corporate ladder from the checkout to corporate trainer and beyond for most of the last 30 years. When her store was bought out, she turned to teaching. She’s having a blast, and her students have scored pretty well on tests, for what they’re worth.
I asked her: What’s your secret?
I’m perfectly honest with them when I’m teaching. I will tell them: You will maybe use this once or twice for the rest of your life. You’ll never use this. You’ll need this for the standardized test. You’ll use this every day for the rest of your life. They know I’m perfectly honest with them.
I also use my life experience. I’ve had two kids and a lifetime behind me, and I draw on that during my teaching. They get a kick out of it, and they know to pay attention. They know I’m telling the truth, and they know when what I’m teaching is important.
I, on the other hand, am 21 years old. I have never held a job in retail, fast food, business or industry. I zipped through school and haven’t done anything else with my life, yet. In the classroom, my youth isn’t much of an advantage.
I’m not that energetic, and I don’t watch television enough to share pop culture as a touchstone for teaching, two things that, ostensibly, come easier to younger teachers. In the meantime, there’s a huge gap between my understanding of how school works and my understanding of how life works. Both are important for a teacher, though the latter is more important when teaching.
I’m definitely missing something. Maybe I should come back to teaching after a lifetime, rather than before it.