Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ni Hao (Nee HaOW)

Ni Hao. Hello. In CHINESE. I am SO multi-lingual! We have a new Chinese teacher at our school this year and, since she is teaching several of her classes in the library, I will probably be COMPLETELY FLUENT in Chinese by the end of the year. I could probably travel in China and converse with eloquence and ease with native Chinese. Or maybe not.

We have several new teachers this year. Every year, when I see the bright, young (are they getting YOUNGER?) faces of our new teachers, I can't help but think about my first year of teaching. I cried SEVERAL times. I have since learned this is not unusual and that most new teachers cry several times their first year. It's just so overwhelming. The responsibility. The planning. You have to be ready to think on your feet, to be extremely organized, to listen with amazed interest to the lost tooth story for the hundredth time, and to move an entire group of children back in an instant when one of them barfs on the floor. It requires specialized training. Although the reaction to barfing is a built-in talent.

My first year of teaching, we still had sixth grade in elementary school. The next year, they were moved to the middle school and all I can say is, Thank God. They terrified me. Most of them were bigger than me, they talked loud and walked with a swagger and they knew I was a weenie. And they took advantage of it. They were on me like vultures on a wounded wildebeest. Basically, they ignored me. When I was teaching, they talked. When I was reading aloud, they talked. When we were watching a video, they talked. I tried and tried to get control. But they had it and they knew it. You are probably thinking this was like one of those teacher movies where I came in and taught them to dance or showed them my karate moves I learned in the Marines, but no. I never got control. At one point, I went to the principal and CRIED because they WOULD NOT LISTEN TO ME. She listened, sympathized, gave me some advice. But she had other teachers to deal with. I was on my own.

It took time, but I have control now. I own THE LOOK. The teacher look. That surprised, slightly amazed look that says "What? What do YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? I KNOW you are not doing that." And it works most of the time. Almost all the time. The teacher voice works the rest of the time. Tom still mocks me for saying "EXCUSE ME?" in the teacher voice one time when he was in the library. But it works.

I wish I could tell all the new teachers that they will perfect THE LOOK and THE VOICE. In time. With lots of practice and lots of patience. They will make it. They will probably cry this year. But they will make it. They will make it.


Linnea said...

Two of my high school teachers had a profound influence on my life. My English Literature teacher encouraged me to write and my History teacher was so enthusiastic that the past became a lifelong fascination for me, so much so that I wrote "The First Vial" a novel set in the 14th century. An even greater thrill, the Ontario Library Association nominated the book for the 2006 White Pine Young Readers Choice Award. Now my novel is part of reading programs in Ontario high schools. I owe a large part of my success to my teachers. Without their encouragement and zest for imparting knowledge I may never have written my story. Tell your teachers how much they mean to their students, even the unruly kids! They are an important part of a child's life, and future.


Lucy's Mom said...

I also "own" THE VOICE and THE LOOK and what's amazing is that it still works very well no matter how old the students get. I have college seniors in my class and you could hear a pin drop when I use THE VOICE to tell them (very nicely,of course) STOP TALKING!! I'M DOING THE TALKING NOW!!!! The instant silence and full attention I receive is impressive. I don't yell but I do have a rather "commanding" voice.

Ortizzle said...

Great post. I may send a link to the new teachers in my school this year (there are plenty, too.) This reminds me of my first teaching job ever. They were students in junior college and I was barely 23. You can imagine how I so did not have THE VOICE yet!