I want to preface this article by saying that the education department is wonderful. They did their best to prepare the current fleet of student teachers for the h-e-double-hockey-sticks that is student teaching.(The one exception to this is Educational Psychology: a night class that frequently got out two hours early, leaving me with plenty of time to watch the Bachelor every Monday night. The one night we didn’t get out by 8:00 I complained about missing this “high-class,” “educational show,” and the teacher ended up giving me his TV, as if that would somehow keep me from missing the episode. Like I said, the education department rocks.)
Unfortunately, no amount of readings, lectures or exams can prepare you for 84 pre-teens in all of their middle school, angsty glory. Luckily, I peaked in middle school (No one may believe me, but I was seriously so popular. My best friends and I called ourselves “the kiwis” and when another group of girls tried to call themselves “the bananas” we yelled at them until they stopped. How’s that for compassionate peacemaking?) and I reminisce about it nearly every day, so I’m very familiar with 13-year-old culture (#dab).
It’s clear that my students can’t tell that I’m just as young and hip as them because, during my first week, a boy raised his hand in the middle of a quiz to ask me if I was 30. As if 30-year-olds still have lingering pre-teen acne. Scoff.
Self-deprecating jokes aside, I really am mildly popular by teacher standards. Last week one girl forgot I was a teacher, rather than her friend, and sassed me with “oh gurrrrrlllll you don’t know me!” She quickly realized her mistake and didn’t speak for the rest of the day. A win-win situation, if you ask me.
I’m also a very fashion-forward teacher, despite what you might think. Once a very popular football player asked to borrow my pink polka dotted belt because his pants were sagging, I agreed because I’m desperate to be liked by a bunch of thirteen-year-olds. I didn’t see my belt again for a week. It was worth the wait because now he says “sup?” when he sees me in the hall.
The main struggle I face every day is not whether or not I am popular among the youth, but rather it’s trying to convince them that math is just as fun and likable as I am. To my complete surprise, students aren’t suddenly interested in fractions when you make the word problems about pizza and cell phones. It’s like they somehow know that they’ll never actually use scientific notation to express the number of texts they send in a month, or use exponents to find the area of their Apple watch face (although I wouldn’t put it past Chad to do so, as long as there’s an app for it).
My education textbooks assured me that as long as I mentioned some piece of pop culture (Brangelina anyone?), students would be attentive, engaged and excited. This is a lie. My students didn’t know what Brangelina is (was* RIP), making me feel old for the first time. I don’t think I’ll ever convince them that pre-algebra can be used in the real world.
Yesterday, I had my first math-related teacher success! I gave my fifth hour class a three-minute break because I was too emotionally exhausted to continue class, and all of the boys immediately began flaunting their testosterone with unimpressive feats of strength.
Billiam** (Will for short) won the masculinity contest by having five other boys stand on his back and jump up and down. While this put him at risk for paralysis and me at risk for a huge lawsuit, I didn’t stop it because 1. I was still emotionally exhausted 2. these students don’t listen to me so it would be a wasted effort and 3. the boys were doing math!
They wanted to know how much weight Will was supporting, so they tried finding the sum of all their weights. Math is useful in the real world! Although addition is just an elementary school level skill, and their calculations were incorrect, I’m still counting it as a success.
Despite the fact that I cry myself to sleep every night at 8:30 pm (not a joke, this is my bed time), student teaching is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Even better than ICC, believe it or not!
Eric** said it best in his teacher evaluation: “Ms. Landes has a tired face of second guessing, but I think she loves us a lot.”
**Name has been changed because I’m 100% sure my students Google me and will find this article.