How a teacher prepares for the school year:
Excerpt from “Yo Miz! (1 Teacher + 25 Schools = 1 Wacky Year)”
Angela and I are substitute teachers, assigned to Baruch College Campus High School (BCCHS) in midtown Manhattan for one month in September 2011. After the month is over, we will be sent to a new school every week along with 2500 other teachers. Here’s how our wacky year begins.
The Second Day and Beyond Wednesday, September 7, 2011
“Good morning!” Angela greets me when I arrive for my second day at BCCHS.
For the next few hours, Angela and I spend most of our time preparing a mailing. All the other teachers are fully scheduled for important things: professional development (PD), departmental meetings, more time at the copy machine. A part of me is grateful that I’m not starting a normal school year. Many teachers have opening-day jitters. Everybody wants to ace that first day.
As a teacher, if you do not present a well-organized front from the first day, you are asking for trouble. You need to be clear about expectations. Yours and theirs. You need to challenge them and at the same time get them excited about learning. This is no day job for dilettantes. It takes time to establish your authority. The first year or two of teaching is boot camp. No matter what grades you’ve gotten in your education courses, or how well you’ve planned your daily lessons, once you are facing your first class of teenagers, any sign of weakness and you’re circling the drain. With a few years under your belt, you learn to exude indisputable authority, to make an example of the first knucklehead who tries to get over on you, while challenging them with provocative ideas that require high level thinking. And…you have to make the subtext palpable. As they sit there, assessing what they can get away with, they can discern that behind your no- nonsense shield, there’s access to an open, loving heart that wants nothing more than their victory. You need to emit an invisible energy, an unspoken transmission that informs them that the muscular pontificator up front is also a gracious, compassionate soul who sees them, gets them and recognizes their extraordinary individuality, whether they’re annoyingly loquacious or too shy to utter a syllable, who will lend them an ear, in private, keeping insecurities and confidences sacred.
But Angela and I are not there. We’re stuffing envelopes in the office. With an open heart, I must add.