Feature

Teaching Realities: Laugh and Enjoy the Adventure

One teacher compares her college dreams of teaching to her actual teaching experience.

I felt like I was getting a REAL education while in college—the kind that would make me successful in every way as an educator. I remember “dreaming” about what my very own classroom would be like…how I would arrange the desks...what my bulletin boards would look like...what classroom I would be assigned…   
The sky was the limit, and in my dreams the sun always shined, the students always acted like angels, I always smiled at the students, and I always looked perfectly professional. Looking back over the last 20 some years of my teaching career, I chuckle at the reality of it all. And, it didn’t take long for me to discover the difference between those teaching dreams and teaching realities. 

Dream: I will always have complete control of my angelic students.

Reality: Dismissal of sixth graders on a Friday is chaotic and even dangerous at times.

A typical ending of a middle school day includes, but is not limited to the following: tidying up the room, putting the chairs up on the desks for the cleaning crew, a frenzy of packing up books and binders, and outbursts of joy that “another day is done.” Now, magnify this times five, and you will have the typical Friday dismissal in a middle school.  

On this particular day, I decided to position myself by the door to bid my little sixth grade cherubs a farewell before the weekend. (It was much needed for us all if you know what I mean.) The bell rang...students looked to me for the nod of dismissal…and then the rush of excited children pushed toward the door. I held my ground at the door as students swarmed me with smiles and high fives. But then, a slight bottleneck began to form at the exit due to the room design and narrow doorway. So I flattened myself to the wall, sucking in a little to allow students past as I continued to send off the students with a hearty “good-bye.” Suddenly, I felt a flash—and I mean a FLASH—of heat overcome my body. I had backed up directly into the corner of a very pointy, sharp metal chalk tray that was perfectly even with the pocket of my pants. In my well intended position, I had “speared” my backside—literally piercing through my jeans, underwear, and skin!

Needless to say, when the last student exited the room, I limped to the office to fill out an accident report, praying that a tetanus shot was not in order. Veiled in embarrassment and humility, I ended the day with a new appreciation for the level of danger present in a classroom full of angelic sixth graders. Thank goodness it was a Friday! 

Dream: I will greet my students with a smile and encouraging word each morning.

Reality: A last minute breakfast may interrupt the morning greeting.

I reached into my candy drawer and withdrew a mini box of gummy candies. What can I say? It was 7:00 a.m., and a girl has got to eat breakfast—after all it is the most important meal of the day.

I had already chewed two goey drops and had popped one more when a student walked up to my desk to ask me a question during homeroom. As I took a breath to address the student by name, suddenly, I sucked the unchewed gummy down into my throat. Oh no! What do I do? Thoughts raced through my mind! Will I throw it up in front of my class?  Will I pass out? Will my class know how to call for help? I couldn’t call for help because I couldn’t speak. So, I tried to collect myself and remain calm, at the very least, trying not to alarm my students as I left the classroom and began my brisk walk toward the office.  

As I turned the corner, suddenly, I coughed. Victory! The gummy beast had dislodged and was now a gooey mess in my hand. Without skipping a beat, I re-entered the classroom, tossed my gummy nemesis into the trash can, and used some hand sanitizer. This certainly was not the morning greeting I had envisioned for my students. Maybe candy doesn’t make for the best breakfast.

Dream: I will always maintain a highly professional appearance in front of my students and parents.

Reality: I am not immune to a case of shameful static cling.

I had coached a girls’ volleyball team for many years. One of my annual, end-of-season coaching duties was to wash, inventory, and neatly fold the uniforms before returning them to the athletic director. 

On one particular morning, I was running a little short on time, so I hastily grabbed the uniforms out of my dryer at home. Since I didn’t have a laundry basket handy, I quickly tossed the armful of jerseys in the middle of the laundry room floor so I would see them before leaving that morning. 

When I walked to the door with keys and bookbag in hand, I scooped up the pile off my laundry room floor and threw the jerseys into a shopping bag to sort at school. It was turning out to be one of those frazzled mornings that my college professors never covered in class. 

Once I got settled into my classroom, I sorted through the bag to begin folding the jerseys, carefully inventorying each number. A few minutes later, two students walked into my classroom to chit-chat with me before the homeroom bell rang. 

I was standing behind my desk, talking with these two students as I delicately picked up each jersey to fold it. I held each jersey up across my own body and carefully folded the arms in toward the center—first the right—then the left—finishing with a fold from bottom to top. Each one was a perfect rectangle when I finished. Two uniforms were neatly placed in a pile when I reached for the third uniform. I held it up like the previous two and continued to smooth it out in preparation for the folds. 

This time I noticed a change in the facial expressions of the two sixth grade students. Both of their eyes enlarged like saucers. The male student turned a slight shade of pink, and the female student pointed up at me and exclaimed, “Mrs. Brown! What is THAT?!?”  

To my dismay, a piece of “personal laundry” was static clinging to the jersey. It must have gotten mixed up with this load when I was in a frenzy that morning. Flustered, I quickly grabbed the undergarment off the volleyball jersey and stuffed it in my purse under my desk!

Not one of my most professional moments…but I was very grateful to have found it that morning rather than the following year when I handed out uniforms at the parent/student meeting.

Even though my dreams about teaching don’t always match the realities of teaching, I still love the adventure. So, it’s probably good that my college classes didn’t warn me—I may have changed my career path. Some days may be painful, frightening, or embarrassing, but, I have learned to laugh and enjoy the blessings of teaching. 

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