Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Why We Learn More Than We Teach

While the Rizz was battling his throat last week, I stepped in and subbed for two of his five missed days of school. As I know I've mentioned before, I'm always a bit nervous subbing for his class because 1) it's high school, which means high schoolers; 2) it's advanced chemistry which means I can't answer even the most basic of questions; and 3) I want them to like me (which is embarrassing to admit) because they love him and I don't want them thinking he married some unattractive hag.

Note: I don't think I'm an unattractive hag, but in the midst of high schoolers, self-confidence tends to plummet.

So, in my attempts to be a chill sub who walked the line of making sure they got done what needed getting done but also allowed some talking and fun, I apparently came across as quiet and looked like I was in a bad mood.

Or so says the Rizz on his report back.

Ugh. So not what I was going for.

And it all left me questioning myself a bit as to why I let a room full of 25 fifteen year olds, who have know idea who they are, throw my 35-year-old self off balance, who knows exactly who I am. Isn't that bizarre? More self examination needed to figure this one out.

So yesterday I found myself back in the halls of high school with several different groups of 15 year olds and I made my best attempt to put my true self out there. So what if they don't like me? I am who I am, right?

And we chatted and I offered them tips as they did their work, (subbed for a theater teacher which was fascinating) watching them work and re-work their scenes for an upcoming performance. I had them laughing and chatting and felt like I was finally connecting with who they were because I was finally being who I was.

It felt great.

In my last class of the day, a somewhat awkward boy approached my desk. We made small talk and I felt so proud of myself for pulling this boy out of his quiet and distracted bubble. I had been sitting quietly reading and he asked me what book I was so engrossed in. I told him the title and he asked what it was about.

"Uh, it's about a woman in her 40s who returns to her childhood home, which she desperately tried to escape after her father died in an accident she caused, because her mother has recently started chopping of her fingers with a meat cleaver."

Can you hear it? CRICKETS.

He looked at me. Like looked at me, trying to figure out what in the world to say because really? What do you say to that? And all my efforts at drawing these kids in and showing them who I am snapped loudly in my face as the boy mumbled "um, cool" and made his way back to his seat. I mean, why couldn't I have been reading something relatable to 15-year-old boys instead of the world's most bizarre (yet fascinating) book?

I laughed as they shuffled out realizing that it doesn't matter what they think of me as long as I work to connect with them, about anything. Talking to them and reassuring them that in the midst of their high school hallways, teaming with kids walking around with every insecurity known to man, that someone saw them, noticed them and took the time to say hello.

Because when that boy left my room, thinking whatever he was thinking about me and my book, he turned back and said "have a nice day." And I think, from a fifteen-yea-old boy to a teacher he barely knows, that's pretty cool.

Corbin Gurkin via Style Me Pretty


Marilyn said...

Such a profound post. I find myself worrying a bit about what my girls' friends think of me, but then remind myself that it doesn't matter.

What's important is that I be myself, be kind, and be a good example!

Thanks for the reminder!

Amy said...

I just got called into the young women's presidency over the mia maids. We're a whole new presidency, and the last presidency was in for 4 years.

So I can actually relate to this. I just want them to like me, I want to make a difference in their lives. It doesn't change that I'm still happy with who I am, and that I'm confident in myself. I just want them to like me anyway.

It's who we are as human beings. No one enjoys being disliked. Well, most normal people don't enjoy it anyway.

I'm not going to change who I am in order to be liked, of course, so if they end up liking me anyway, then that's a bonus.

Sarah said...

Yep, it's sure funny how our mind works isn't it? Over Christmas break while chatting with my little sis and her friends that are all in college, I realized that I am literally in a completely different world, and they probably think that I am so old and boring. But then I thought, awww who cares. They'll be there someday too, and then they'll look back and realize how cool I really was. HA! I bet you are one of the most fun subs they can get there at the high school. I think you're right about trying to just be yourself.

hatch said...

Very insightful thoughts Karen.

I am so curious about what you are reading....

GS said...

Your whole life, when I knew you were upset with me, I would tell myself "Someday she will understand".

The book sounds terrible, by the way.

Kelly said...

Brilliant writing my friend and a great message too. I have no doubt those students are happy when they see you are the sub for the day- It's impossible not to like you.

Sarah said...

P.S. Are you reading the Mermaid Chair?

PRP said...

Yes, Sarah, The Mermaid Chair. I really liked it, even though it was completely nutso.

For the love of Kid(d)s said...

Kids/students/teenagers just want authenticity. They may or may not "like" the you that you are, but they can live and work with that. They HATE the superficial front that so many adults/teachers present. (I love this post because it makes me love my job... hearts!)

p.s. The Mermaid Chair irritated me because it lacked the depth and pace that Sue Monk Kidd offered in Secret Life of Bees. But I'm glad you like it! ;)

karen★ said...

first of all, i definitely want to read this book...thanks for the title.

second of all, wow! this was such a great insight to what you do & who you are. the only high schoolers that i have the opportunity to be around are my young women (& they have to love's a personal progress requirement.) but, i know what you mean about these kids; they are all sorts of grown up that i won't ever be..even in my 30's.

third & finally, i was the kid that no one said hello to, & so i'm so happy with that little change that you definitely made in that boy's day. i'll bet you that he never ever forgets it.