Wayyyyy back in graduate school ( ok, like four months ago), there was a video going around that made us would-be teachers all flutter. The video is of a teacher talking about what a teacher “makes.” Every teacher, current and prospective, gets all pumped up. This is like a slam-poem version of Dead Poet Society. It just makes us so excited.
Now, yes. This video is awesome, and I could hardly wait until I could “make” what that guy made. It was a little different though, once I stepped into the classroom.
As you read in my Raisin Man story, my first prompt of the school year for my kids is, “What do you want to do in the next five years, and how will you get there?”
One of my students, a young man who we will call “H,” who was friends with Raisin Man, did not like me. I could tell, because teachers can ALWAYS tell when a student hates them. It’s not hard to figure out. The eye rolls are out. of. control. The heavy sighs are not sneaky. Oh, and then, there was his response to my essay prompt.
I don’t have his essay because I didn’t save it. I wish I had now, because it was hilarious, especially in light of how our year ended. I got a stack of (mostly hand-written) essays. H’s essay started off fairly standard, stating he would graduate from the high school, and then “drift a while.”
After “drifting a while,” H’s plan was to become a homeless. He argued that,
“I will just be homeless and beg on the street. Because I bet if I begged on the street, I will still make more money than a 12th grade English teacher at High School.”
He actually named our specific school in the essay. My jaw literally dropped when I read that line. I could actually feel my face go hot with insult and outrage at the sheer guts of a student to write something so rude and disrespectful. I imagined various ways of tearing him apart. I imagined reading his essay aloud to the class, then doing a flying drop kick to his face, but then the whole “I’d get fired” and reality that I am incapable of a flying anything really put a hitch in that plan.
I asked a few teachers what to do, and I followed their advice. Next class, I asked H to come out of the classroom, so I could “review” his essay with him. I brought him out, and I could tell he was expecting me to light into him.
“Hey, H. I read your essay.”
He nodded, and smiled smugly. “Yeah, how’d you like it?”
I gritted my teeth, but I smiled, “It was very clever. It made me laugh. That being said, you need to rewrite it, because this assignment was to talk about a job we could create a resume for. As I’m sure you know, homeless beggar does not require a resume.”
He looked a little taken aback at the lack of scolding and took his essay back with the markups. I let him feel like he could win the battle because at the end of the day, I wanted him to learn from me. I wanted to make something.
H’s and my relationship got steadily better from that point on. He left the following signature in my yearbook:
“Class rating: 4 out of 5
First impression: blonde hair woman named Mrs. N is a b-word.
Second impression: attempt to offend her did not work, only praised my genius. Work. AKA homeless essay.
Later impression: I’ve learned a lot from this woman. Very thankful for this class.
Final Impression: Favorite class of high school. Never forget.
Would try again.
Thanks for everything.”