Cafe Hitch-hike


Reclaiming my voice

Starting fall, I was assigned to teach some sessions of a class in a computer lab. To get ready, I've been reading the coursebook of the class, and then some information literacy materials that the course is based upon. Oh... how teacherly.

I've taught classes here and there since the aborted teaching career and internship, but not as regularly has this schedule dictates.

I have a quiet, personal goal in this teaching. Since the abort, at times I get nervous in front of classrooms. Streams of frightening thoughts enter my head about how the head instructor thinks of me, whether or not they will be supportive, and how the students will respond to me. Hence, my personal teaching goal is to stop those thoughts and teach like the bad-ass teacher which I used to be.

Whenever I swim laps as I've been doing lately, I think about the cameraderie of the kids who I taught to swim, and who hung around our ghetto municipality pool. It really wasn't bad at all. I had fun with the kids, though I was concerned about their safety as equally as I wanted them to enjoy themselves and be good swimmers. I think about Justin, Tammy, and Brandon at times.... they are probably 19 now and I hope they are doing well.

It was a ghetto pool and some of the white lifeguards thought we had to be hard-as-nails with the kids. I felt glad to show that discipline and relating can be balanced; kids aren't out to piss us off, and we can be good to the kids while making sure they don't drown. I think we got along quite well and that I made that contribution.

So, I want to reclaim that notion in my classroom teaching. I want to show those students that our library can be good to them, it's work, but it's beneficial.

And, I don't want to be a frightened and hurt person in front of them. I don't want to be afraid of what my superiors will think of my teaching. I want to be able to be a skilled, yet personable teacher.

The internship was so rough. I taught nearly an entire school year in a middle school. My collaborating teacher reluctantly had taken me on; she didn't want a student teacher in her class, but most of all, she certainly didn't want a Latina (she seriously told me her opposition to affirmative action, as if I got into that difficult-to-get-into teacher's college simply because I checked "Hispanic/Latino" and not because I had excellent references, grades, and community activities). What I got throughout the year was negative reviews from her and no support. She also didn't encourage the students to take me seriously. I wasn't the perfect intern and I went so far to acknowledge what I contributed to the situation, but sometimes people can be just plain evil.

The entire time was long and difficult. Other teachers were not very supportive; they generally kept to themselves. The students really didn't like me, either. I tried to be relaxed, they ran all over me. I tried to be disciplined, they pissed and moaned. My collaborating teacher used this as proof I had no ability to plan or control a class.

Why did I stay in it? Why? I thought I could beat it. I thought if I could hang tough, I'd get through it and get the teaching certificate I came to get. I started reading the trilogy of Lord of the Rings at the time, and thought that the toughest battles are also ones worth winning.

And, I thought it was a rite of passage. I thought I'd have to face this difficult task to show my dedication to teaching. I thought if I could get through this, then I would make it to the promised land. I'd get certified. I'd get a great teaching job.

The last 4 weeks of the internship was pure hell. I kept getting "you better do this & that if you want to pass." I was up late correcting papers, fine-tuning lesson plans, making handouts, and crying, sleeping very fitfull sleeps. I kept doing "this & that," and then I was given even more. I was being buried and trying to dig myself out, but the sand was getting dumped faster than I could dig.

At that time, I gave myself a tarot card reading for the first time since high school. My outcome card was 10 of Swords, the man lying face-down on the beach, bleeding, with 10 swords stuck in his back. I didn't need the interpretation book to figure what that meant. And, that was exactly what happened.

So how did that affect me? My god, I felt destroyed after that. I cried all the time, in my car, with my family and friends, and in the bathroom at work. I felt so throughly pounded to a pulp.

It's been 5 years since that happened, but now I really want to take back what I originally had in the first place. My dignity and a desire to teach. So now, I think this new assignment will force me to confront those blocks.

I so-badly want to stick some dynamite into those walls and those barriers. I want this to flow through me, and dammit, I want it back! I want back what was taken from me!

As it turned out, library school was a peculiar blessing because every thing I learned in teacher's college is what got me every library job I've had. My professors and peers were generally positive and supportive people. What that collaborating teacher said was nothing but lies; I know how to relate to others, I know how to lead, and dammit, I know how to effectively launch a project to its end. But still, I have these low, sub-surface tremors when I get in front of a classroom. I can still teach a class, but not the way I used to teach. I want to be without them, and want to be myself, all of myself, again...

The funny thing about being a teacher was that right after I was through with the internship, the state was having problems with layoffs. I have colleagues who finished teaching school at the same time I had, but have been in a different school district every year because they were laid off (teachers are unionized in Michigan, so naturally the ones with the lowest seniority are bumped when lay-offs occur). It's rare to find a teacher, with 5 years of experience, to have spent their entire career in one school district. My mother kept track of this in the news and suggested that maybe it was a good thing I didn't become a teacher.

I don't know. With all that happened, I try to count my blessings and stay positive, and try to see that this direction was better off in the long run. I try. And now, I will try to be the teacher I feel I was meant to be... I will try...

(Thanks for listening)

downwind | upstream