Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Nine Moments in the Life of a Teacher

1. Your first teaching job comes in the form of a freshman writing course. You get the letter of acceptance and spend the next two weeks preparing like mad: you choose just the right briefcase and first-day-of-school outfit. You stand in front of the mirror saying, “good afternoon, class, and welcome to English 115. My name is Ms. Rasmussen.” To your horror, on your first day of class you can’t get the song “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen out of your head. “What am I in this for, anyway?” you ask yourself as you scan the classroom, looking for cute, eligible RM’s.

2. That girl who always rolls her eyes at you in the back of the class sends her B+ paper to her high school English teacher, who insists that the paper YOU graded should have received at LEAST an A-. Your worst fears are confirmed when your boss reads the paper and tells you that the high school teacher was right. You smooth things over by telling the disgruntled student that “I gave you a lower grade because I expected more from you than this. You are such a good writer.” She never stops rolling her eyes at you for the rest of the semester.

3. You get married and move away to China—pretty typical scenario—where you teach 8 English classes and your male students ask you to play tennis with them and want to know if you know any other white women who can be their girlfriend. You fumble around for an answer when your students ask you how to pronounce an umlaut in the phonetic alphabet. At some point you have to leave class to vomit in a squatter and find an eraser and some chalk. Forget about an overhead projector and a copy limit. You don’t even get a textbook. On the last day of class, your students ask you to pose for a group picture immediately after you threw up, yet again, in the squatter.

4. You return from China determined not to throw up during class ever again, and, considering that you are in the advanced stages of pregnancy, this is not as easy as it might seem. You make up for your absent-mindedness by frequently bringing treats to class: hot chocolate, fudge nut bars, whatever you were craving the night before. One student from Alabama has an inexplicable crush on you, which leads him to bring you pumpkin pie shakes from Jamba Juice, comment on how cool your shoes are, and marvel the first time he sees you wearing glasses (“I’ve never seen you in THOSE before!”)

5. You start to notice that during your lessons you sweat profusely. It’s the pregnancy, but your students just think you are a disgusting, sweaty hoss—and, to be honest, you feel like one. The most prominent sweaty place is the area above your upper lip. It seems especially bad when you teach the Beehives on Sunday. You don’t know if you should point it out (like former “New Kid on the Block,” Joey MacIntire did when he hosted TRL. He was like “look at how bad my pits are sweating! I’m going to go change my shirt during this Mariah Carey video”), or whether to just pretend it doesn’t exist. Either way, you can’t win in the eyes of those demure 12-year-old girls, which is why you imagine they released you from your calling.

6. You have your baby and return to teaching six months later. Contrary to reason and human decency, your six-month-old doesn’t sleep at night AT ALL. You start to take Diet Coke intravenously just to stay alert for your three hour class, which consists of more ESL students than you know what to do with.

7. During a rather brilliant lesson on “tone,” you severely alienate one of your “non-traditional” students (i.e., a student that is older than you, male, and bitter about being in a class full of 18-year-olds that is taught by a woman). You alienate him by playing the Depeche Mode version of “Personal Jesus” and comparing it to the Johnny Cash version. Whose tone is more sincere? Turns out that this non-traditional dude “partied” with Depeche Mode back in ’85 at a hotel in Park City. When he hears them sing “Personal Jesus,” he feels like he really DOES have a personal Jesus. Johnny Cash is just country, and therefore not valid. After this, nontraditional student does little to mask his hatred of you, and you end the semester with a university-imposed restraining order against him.

8. You enroll in an advanced writing internship, in which you intern for a professor in an advanced writing class. Your professor spends more time critiquing your eye shadow than she does telling you what to do in class. She’s good at telling you that you are wrong and that “you need to go like this” as she makes a sweeping motion over her eyelids to indicate that you have a crease in your eye shadow.

9. You finally get your Masters and become a full-fledged part time professor. They give you an “A” sticker (people have been known to kill for an “A” sticker), an office with a door, and they leave you the heck alone. You feel that you have arrived. You start focusing a lot more on your outfits, like in the good old days, and you laugh at how insecure you used to be until you get an email from a student who rolls her eyes a lot in class—something about her grade not being “fair” and how you contradicted yourself in some conference . . .


  1. It's funny cuz it's true. When I read, "You need to go like this," I snorted loudly and unexpectedly.

  2. I just have to say that pretty much the whole reason I want to become a teacher is so my students will get crushes on me and bring me stuff. I am WAY jealous.

  3. I just have to say that pretty much the whole reason I want to become a teacher is so my students will get crushes on me and bring me stuff. I am WAY jealous.

  4. Mike: Very funny and true. I'm not sure if the searching for RM's happened before or after we were married though. Hmm. I need to eat some more dinner.