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I started my career as a teacher, and the first experience I had in a classroom was as a “student teacher.”  Student teaching is a practice where a college student (duh) studying to be a teacher (again, duh) goes into the classroom of a real teacher and gets to commandeer the class under the hosting teacher’s guidance.  Basically, it’s like teaching with training wheels.

While I can understand the logic and it seems to be a better alternative to just being thrown into a classroom on your own to test out everything you read in books about how kids learns, there are some aspects of the student teaching model that can make it challenging:

  • Because you are not the “real teacher”, there is a risk that the students will perceive you to be some form of substitute teacher.  In their malleable minds, this equates to not necessarily having to follow rules or not needing to do any work in your presence.
  • If there is a large age gap between you and the host teacher, there is a risk that the host teacher will treat you like a student and chastise you in front of the class when you make a mistake.  This does not further your attempts to gain the respect of the students. The last thing you want to hear from your host teacher is, “You’re so young, the students I taught 20 years ago are older than you!”
  • On the other end of the spectrum, there is a risk that the host teacher will let you run with it, and possibly even just disappear, leaving you in charge.  The danger here is that you might freak out without someone around to hold your hand.

The last scenario was the least problematic for me; my many years of waitressing experience taught me a couple of key survival techniques, such as how to stay calm when an irate customer is screaming at you (smile a tiny bit but not too much), and how to massage the truth, also known as lying, with absolutely no hesitation (“Yes, I did remember to tell the chef to use olive oil instead of butter on your veggies.”)   So it ended up being fortunate for me that, when I was a student teacher, my host teacher was very “hands off.”  I liked having some latitude to try things without worrying that, any time something went the least bit awry, the host teacher might jump in and take over.

However, as I walked in to the classroom for the first time, I had no idea what my student teaching situation would be.  Since it was my first day, I hadn’t met the host teacher, she hadn’t yet introduced me to the class, and I didn’t know a single student.  Therefore, walking in to find a teacher-less classroom was a bit awkward.  When you are the only adult in a room full of seventh graders, it’s hard to blend.  So here I was, just sort of standing out, wondering if I should do something or just wait for the teacher, who really should have been showing up any minute because the second bell had rung five minutes before.  As I was looking down the hall for any sign of the teacher, I heard a bit of a commotion behind me…

Ewwww!  A girl screeched.

I quickly turned around and saw a beautiful little boy standing in front of me.  He had blond hair, blue eyes, and long thick eyelashes.  Freckles were sprinkled all over his cheeks.  He was small for a seventh grader, and looked nine or ten instead of twelve years old.  It was a complete Cindy Lou Who moment, because his cuteness was almost disarming.

I looked down at him and said, “What’s going on?”

He replied, “I only asked her a question.”

“OK, what was the question?  Maybe I can help you.”

“What’s a clitoris?” he asks with a straight face.  Suddenly, the class fell silent.

Following is an account of what went through my head in the next few seconds.  I swear on my life that I did not embellish this.

Is he serious, or is he trying to upset me?  If I let him get me riled on Day One, it’s over – I will never regain control of this class.  I am sure he is testing me, trying to see what I am made of.  I can’t answer his question seriously.  But he is so cute – could such a cute boy be so evil?  Maybe if he used his smarts for good instead of…ok, off-topic, back to the issue at hand.  But what if he is serious?  If I act like he did something wrong by saying “clitoris,” as if a it is a bad thing, then somewhere down the line when he gets married his wife could end up miserable because he is afraid of her clitoris or something.  And then she gets stuck in a foreplay-less marriage and it’s all my fault!

After an instantaneous analysis of my two options (chastise him or answer the question), I decided to walk right down the middle:

“That is a really good question for your Health Teacher.”

He stood there for a second and then smiled and said, “OK, thanks,” and walked to his desk.  A few days later, as I got to know this student better, it became very clear to me that this was indeed a test and fortunately, I got a good grade.

And in the process, this experience taught me a new survival technique:  How to pass the buck. 

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  The first commenter to correctly explain the reference in the title of this blog wins.  What you win are bragging rights and the satisfied feeling that you know more useless information than everyone else who read this post.  Someday when I finish my book and I am on Oprah, I will give out better prizes, although I would argue that “bragging rights” are definitely worth something!

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About Me

The purpose of this blog is purely self-expression - being creative for the sake of being creative. It has evolved into a collection of non-fiction essays.

All of the anecdotes and incidents you read in this blog are completely true and not exaggerated, no matter how sad, pathetic or unbelievable they may seem.

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© Operation Peace and Serenity, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Operation Peace and Serenity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.