The “Teacher’s Lounge” provides a lively and fun-filled opportunity to share with colleagues and students your funny and joyous stories from the trenches of day to day teaching. Please take this opportunity to submit your own story and read about other experiences.
When I began student teaching I worshipped my cooperating teacher (Bob): How did he make it look so easy? I observed his wonderful teaching. I vigorously took notes. Then I took over my first class.
I knew. I knew they were all going to be my friends. They were going to love me and learn from me as they never had. I had my lesson plan, materials, and all the stuff I was told to have in my pre-service training. Bob left the room. I stood up, smiling, and told the class exactly what we were going to do, gave them my life story, and just when I was about to ask them about themselves they, like sharks, smelled blood in the water.
They began ignoring me and started talking to each other. The talking grew into shouting. Then it escalated alarmingly into throwing things around the classroom: pencils, books, and chairs (yes, chairs!). I almost started crying— I wanted to curl up under the desk.
Bob met me after my hooligans had left. “So, John, how were the little darlings?” I told him what had happened. I also told him I should quit and that I was a horrible teacher. He reassured me: “John, don’t worry about a thing. I’ll take their next class today. You come in tomorrow and they’ll be like kittens with milk on their whiskers.”
The next day while driving to the school I practiced my speech to Bob about why I was going to give up teaching and pursue a career at Starbucks. They must take teachers with master’s degrees in English education, right? I wanted to tell him in person, but he wasn’t around when the first period class of these kids met, so I had no choice but to walk in solo. I’ll never know exactly how Bob had done it, but these boys and girls all had their hands folded on their desks and politely said: “Good morning, Mr.Gibney. What will we be learning today?” That is the day I figured out classroom politics, and the day I began loving… loving!… teaching.
One of my non-traditional university students, a grandmother pursuing her education degree, was observing a first grade class one day. A six-year-old male student, with whom she’d developed a warm relationship, asked if she would be coming to class the next day. My student replied that she would not as she had to go to her own school the next day. His eyes welled up with tears, and he asked if she had failed first grade again.
Northeastern State University
Years ago during my first year teaching fifth grade I had a young man named Jeremy. He was kind of a scraggly kid, charming smile, messy clothes, dirty blonde hair, and a long rattail. For the first month of school he was late for school every day except one. I would admonish him for being late, give him a little lecture on responsibility, and remind him of the school rule requiring after school detention for every three tardies! He would just shrug his scrawny shoulders and head to desk in the back of the classroom.
The day he arrived on time, I asked him, “Why are you late all the time and why were you on time today?” Jeremy quietly explained, “My dad does not live with me and my mom, and she goes to work before I wake-up in the morning, so I am on my own to get up and off to school. My mom was sick this morning so I got up early to take care of her.
Jeremy and I came up with a plan: I would call him every morning at 6:30, and he would get up and get himself to school. If he could get to school on time for two weeks, I would take him to breakfast. Jeremy came to school for two weeks on time and we went to breakfast. Then another two! At the end of about a month he told me he thought he could get to school on his own but that he really appreciated it.
Just recently Jeremy came up to me at local festival and introduced himself. He shook my hand and told me what a deference I had made in his life, how he prides himself on being on time, that had a great job and a great family … and that he learned to be a responsible person in fifth grade! He still had the rattail … but he looked great!
Fifth Grade Teacher
I did my first year of teaching without benefit of methods courses, student teaching, an entry year program or an assigned mentor. I was hired because I “looked like someone who could teach middle school students.” I was assigned a class of Speech and Drama, a class of Remedial Reading, four classes of eighth grade social studies, and given a coaching assignment. I had not had one credit hour of training in any of those courses.
The teacher I replaced had quit because the students had been so hard to manage. I remember writing ” firm and fair” on the back of my left hand. Thirty-seven years later I answered a knock at my door and it was a man with his son. The man had been a student in my first social studies class. He reintroduced himself to me and said he wanted his son to meet the best teacher he ever had. We talked for hours like class had just ended. You never know who you are going to impact and how long that impact will last.
Dr. Douglas Brooks
A few years ago, when I first started teaching an ESL class of students, I learned quickly that subtle gestures sometimes have completely different meanings across cultures. At the end one day early in the year, I waved goodbye to Addis, one of my new students, as she was getting ready to board her school bus. Addis whirled around and ran toward me as her bus rode away.
She noticed how confused I looked; I couldn’t figure out why she had decided to miss her bus and instead come running up to me. What I didn’t realize at the time, and what Addis was unable to articulate in English, was that in Ethiopia, the gesture that Americans use to wave goodbye means “come here.”
East High School
During my first year as a speech/language pathologist I was full of fear yet anxious to utilize what I had just learned in graduate school.
One of my students, a third-grader named Sarah, had a problem with confusing “her” with “she” in her sentences. “Her did that,” or “When her goes.” I tried to model the correct usage of the pronouns by casually repeating Sarah’s sentences when she misused them, replacing ‘her’ with ‘she’, etc. “Yes,” I’d say, “she did that!” Day after day I monotonously repeated these corrections, wondering if they were having any effect. Finally, around mid-year: the ah-ha moment!
As I repeated yet another correction, Sarah stood up and smiled broadly. She said, “Oh I get it! I know what you’re doing. You’re fixing my ‘hers’.” I smiled just as broadly back at Sarah. Modeling works! It was a memorable first reward as a new speech/language pathologist!
Kate Ross, MS, CCC-SLP