It's still sort of surreal--thinking of myself as an actual full-time contracted teacher. I've been out of the game so very long, and then just playing at it for even longer. It feels fake, I dress up every day and go pretend in this classroom that I actually know something about educating America's youth. I mean, the ache in my neck from staying up late to grade papers is awfully real to me, but the rest still surprises me. Like seeing my name by a mail slot in the staff room. Or using a key card to get inside the building. Yesterday I brought my reading group to the library to check out books and the librarian discovered I AM NOT IN THE SYSTEM. I was not eligible to check out books because I HAVE NOT BEEN ASSIGNED A NUMBER. (To be clear, the library man is not shouty--he's very mild-mannered. The computer system, however, is another story.) I don't have a real staff ID, I'm still "Staff 001" on my generic key card. I'm a glitch in the system.
But I'm thankful for God placing me here, for all kinds of reasons. Here's a list of cool stuff I've discovered that makes me feel very grateful:
61. It doesn't feel like work, which means it must be something I'm rather good at doing.
62. That Keurig Mr. D got me last year for Christmas. I know, I know, they're environmentally bad, blahblahblah. But for my 1:30 cup of coffee, it works perfectly for my vital caffeine fix between 6th and 7th hour.
63. Teenagers. They slay me. Their clothes, their humor, their music, their taste in movies, their obsession with video games and social media all amuse me. Even the eye-rolling, huffing and puffing and SO disgusted with the world ones in 6th hour. Catch them one on one and they're each likeable in their own way and pretty harmless. Especially if you use a low voice and say soothing, complementary things to them.
64. When I hand back papers marked up and the students read my comments and say stuff like "Thank you. Thank you for writing this about my work." I mean, my GOODNESS!
65. Crash Course. It's really fantastic for the quick mini-lesson before launching into meaty stuff like Founding Brothers. I could sit and watch these videos all day long.
66. Heck, the whole internet for the quick answers and visuals, like images of Alexander Hamilton and what's the story behind Catiline.
67. Talking about books with people who read and enjoyed them, too.
68. Seeing a student really put in the effort and nail an assignment.
69. Glossing over grading because everybody got it right the first time around.
70. To a degree, online gradebooks. I mean, sometimes I still occasionally enter the data wrong, but at least I don't have to crunch all the numbers myself hunched over a calculator. The program does THAT part for me automatically. Every time. Genius!
71. Administrators who don't bog their teachers down with red tape and committees and busy work.
72. Parents who support their kids' education.
73. To that end, e-mail. I can reach out to a parent or student at any convenient time and they can do the same. And for all the ways that e-mails lack the emotion of face-to-face or phone conversations. Objective is better. And more efficient.
74. When I say something once, everyone hears me and takes it seriously and I don't have to repeat it.
75. When the class is fully engaged and we get interrupted by the bell at the end of the hour.
76. And even more wonderful is when the kids remark on it--"This class always feels short to me." That's great!
77. Discovering things about my students--one is a race car driver, one started a CYO basketball league, one has a young daughter, one watched their family barn go up in smoke, one sings like an angel, one has a wickedly funny twitter feed. They each have their unique story and I have a front row seat to their lives as a writing teacher.
78. Watching a kid do something exceptionally well, especially when I didn't expect it.
79. A Xerox machine that never, ever jams or breaks down.
80. Feeling like I did something useful every day. I come home pretty tired, but I'm always ready to head back and face first hour the next morning. What happens in Room 212 helps about 130 kids and I find that rewarding.
Spill it, reader. What are you really good at doing? Does it make you happy to do it?