I never wanted to teach secondary school.
While I dreamed of standing in front of classroom, molding young minds, shaping our future, grading papers and assigning homework, I never, not once, seriously entertained the thought of teaching middle or high school. Kindergarten, probably. Third grade, maybe – a little old for my comfort level. I imagined myself as motherly figure to very small children, ones who were still learning how to properly hold a pencil, who were stumped by addition problems with multiple digits, who were still firm believers in the Tooth Fairy and the monster under the bed. Babies, I told anyone who would listen. I want to teach babies.
I do not teach babies.
I haven’t been in the best mood this week. Sometimes my bitterness descends like an angry, relentless cloud, and I’m forced to get up out of bed, onto the hot, crowded train, and into that damn building to paste on a smile and teach preteens and teenagers. It does not come easily for me.
Sometimes I need to remind myself, ‘Be nice to the children. It’s not their fault you’re in a bad mood. Well, a lot of the time, it probably is. Be nice to them anyway.”
But then, in the midst of my lackluster affirmations and constant clock-checking (is it 2:49 yet? it is 3:41 yet? is it JUNE yet?) a kid will be awesome, or hilarious, or incredibly sweet, and it throws my entire cynical world for a loop.
Yesterday afternoon, five high schoolers attended the first meeting of the literary magazine club a coworker and I decided to create this year. I admittedly dragged myself in the meeting tired and battling a headache, which has become my normal state of being for the end of the day, but I forcibly made myself perk up for the sake of the kids. I’m glad I did. What followed was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve ever spent with students. The girls were creative, engaged, outspoken, and HILARIOUS. In all of my internal mumbling and grumbling, I had temporarily forgotten how great teenagers can be. They can make me laugh, make me think, make me forget about my headache.
No, they were not the age group I chose. But they’re the age group I’m with, and honestly, sometimes, I just cannot hate it the way I want to.