Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teaching Can Be An Emotional Job

A few years back we had a real doozy of a student teacher.  The fault was fine.  His credentials didn't meet my normal filtration standards, but males are hard to find in elementary school so I reached a little.  He wound up being a total mess.  He had no instructional abilities, was routinely mocked by 4th graders (often for good reason), and worst of all, cried all the time.  Not just to his cooperating teacher, but to anyone on faculty who mistakenly made eye contact with him.  Truthfully, he became quite the topic of comedy in the teacher's lounge.

His cooperating teacher, Ann, wasn't so amused.  Situations like this are tough.  You are both the mentor and the gate keeper to the profession. That's a fine line to walk with a guy like this.  To the young man's credit, he tapped out.  He realized that he didn't have the 'it' factor required to teach and quit a few weeks before he was set to finish.  Truth be told, the university was pushing for him to finish, he probably would have graduated, got his 'licence' to teach and been 'out on the road' with the rest of us (harming kids).  He deserves more than a little credit for not dishonoring our profession, and it no doubt cost him significant financial strain as he had to pick a new career.

Given his propensity for crying, after making his decision he zipped all over the building bawling like a superstar athlete who just announced his retirement.  He was hugging everyone, making all sorts of dramatic speeches, and leaving lots of snot on people's shoulders.

As a sort of thank you/I'm sorry, I offered to take the cooperating teachers and few other staff members who had been particularly the target of this guy out for some drinks and laughs.  Then my mischievous side got working...

I was able to pull some strings and get the student teacher's picture that was taken from his work badge and print it out.  I took the picture over to the grocery store with the idea of having a cake made with his picture on it which I would bring to our night out.

When I arrived at the grocery store, I handed the picture to the lady at the bakery who smirked as she took the photograph.  "What you want the cake to say?" she asked.  I hadn't thought about that.  I stood there trying to think of something witty.  "Is this a birthday? An anniversary?" She paused and took a deep breath.  "Sir.  Is this a divorce?" at least somewhat starting to get get that this may be a joke.  I tried, as best as one possibly could, to explain why I was having this cake made (she did not seem to get it) and then asked her to put "I Love You Ann" on the cake.

The place we headed Friday for drinks was actually an upscale restaurant with a cool bar attached.  They are actually known for their giant desert servings.  I arrived early and spoke to the hostess about our little joke and he was totally into it.  He put the cake int he cooler for me.  However, he also wound up finishing his shift and not properly explaining what we were doing to his relief.

After everyone had arrived and had a 12 dollar drink or two, I said, "You know, this place has that awesome carrot cake, and the pieces are huge.  Let's get a piece and share it."  I yelled for the waiter, and asked him to bring the table a piece of the carrot cake.

The new hostess apparently thought it was Ann's birthday because when the cake emerged from the kitchen it was loaded with candles and all the available staff were singing Happy Birthday.  Of course, this inspires others (particular those who are drinking) to also join in the song of celebration.  The people at my table who all knew what was going on were crying with laughter, but Ann was totally confused.  Until they put the cake down.

When she saw his face, she got bright red around the time the song was finishing and then blew out the non-birthday candles so the staff would leave.  The waiter offered to cut the cake and serve us (pretty nice, since we didn't buy it their) and Ann agreed but gave one direction. "Do NOT cut his face.  Please box that.  I've been telling my husband about this guy for two months and now he was see exactly what I've been dealing with!"


  1. I just have to respond to this because it hit me so close to home! I WAS THE CRYER in my situation. Last year, I decided to try teaching abroad and got a job in an English school (in England, in a tiny, dumpy town!) and was wholly not prepared for what I was facing. I am an experienced teacher and all of my worst teacher nightmares from my university training actually came true. The times where you dream that you've lost complete control of a class and kids are throwing things and running around screaming? Yeah, that was my life. I am not a yeller, I prided myself at home on my classroom management skills and in England, none of the things I knew worked with my students. I never cried in front of the kids (through sheer force of will!), but I broke down pretty much daily in front of my colleagues in our office because I was just so out of my element. I was totally "that girl" or worse, "that American girl" who could never stop crying. I am sure they were really psyched to see me go and I like to think that maybe they made a cake with my weepy, tear-splotched face on it...or better yet...a pint glass!

    I love this blog! My friends and I tweet it to each other all the time! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  2. Thanks for reading! I was told during new teacher orientation that if anyone in the room was an agnostic/atheist, they wouldn't be by the end of the year. We all shed some tears along this incredible journey. Further, it's natural that not every year will be our best (or worst). There were likely several factors that led to you not having the kind of year you wanted. The gentleman in this story wasn't cut out to be a teacher at any point, the same way others wouldn't make good soldiers, police officers, or salesmen. Again- I give him a lot or credit for pulling the plug on himself.