I often wonder what those closest to me would think of my life in the classroom.
Because when I’m teaching, I’m a completely different human being than I am in “real life”.
Real Life Me is intelligent and mature; thoughtful and educated; sophisticated and cultured.
Teacher Me dances around classrooms and turns every set of classroom instructions into choreographed musical extravaganzas. Teacher Me speaks in ridiculous accents and uses over-the-top dramatic reenactments to illustrate new concepts. Teacher Me laughs at fart jokes and tortures children by eating doughnuts from the lounge right in front of them. Teacher Me is absurd and immature and weird.
People in my Real Life rarely get to see the teacher side of me. In fact, 95% of them never do. And I’m secretly relieved about that. Because if the people in my life saw the Teacher Me? My family would get me professional help, my friends would unfriend me, and I would never go on another date again ever.
That’s why I hate when other adults are in my classroom. I’m never the “real” Teacher Me with other adults. (Unless that person is a classroom aide. Those aides have seen it all… and they keep coming back… God bless them.) When other adults are in the classroom, I’m focused and serious and on top of my kids. It’s not much fun. I morph back into Real Me – the well put together, “normal”, contributing member of society… and the kids wonder if I’m feeling okay.
But that’s the cool thing about being a teacher… you get to set up your own community… your own family… where everyone gets the inside jokes and you speak the same language and you communicate with head nods, grunts and raised eyebrows. My students get to see a side of me that no one else sees – I get to be totally and completely weird with them – and that’s a pretty cool privilege. With my students, I can have a totally absurd conversation about the consequences of nose-picking and erupt into a fit of giggles with all the rest of them when someone lets out an exceptionally noisy fart right in the middle of sustained silent reading. I don’t do that in real life! No one does that in real life! But having a classroom full of kids evolves into a familial relationship – I probably spend more time with those kids than I do with anyone else in my life. If I can’t laugh with them, then it’s going to be an exceptionally long nine months.
I think it’s easy for adults to forget what we were like as kids. We’re so busy trying to get kids to be good – to excel and work hard and try their best and be good friends and make right choices – that we forget they’re just little weirdos – walking around, being weird, trying to get better about not being weird because it’s not “normal” to be weird, when the fact of the matter is… Kids are weird! Eventually they grow out of it… but during their childhood… sometimes they need to be weird! Just like I need to be weird. We all need a safe place to be weird. And if my classroom is their safe place to be weird with their weird teacher? Then I think I’ve done my job.