Thursday, September 20, 2012
Ever have one of those days where you just realize you've chosen the right path? Today proved that kind of day for me, and what a great feeling, too. My seventh year at Holmes has not gotten off to such a hot start, not because I hate my job or anything, but because I've had to endure so many changes at once, from a friend retiring to a four day school week to teaching both eight AND sixteen week courses to learning a new software writing program that, quite frankly, stinks. About two weeks ago, at about the time I spent two hours of my precious office time working through some software kinks and chewing out the company's tech support, I made a decision. I would no longer let any of this get me down. Sure, by the time I get home these days I would like to worry less about getting supper on the table and just pass out instead, but I had to find a way to roll with the punches or lose my sanity completely. Therefore, I took the ol' take-it-one-day-at-a-time approach. It has been no easy feat for sure. I still stress out on a daily basis, but today, I realized that it didn't matter what problems I had with work because I realized that I really am in the right place! This semester, I teach an eight week Beginning English class. This course is for students who couldn't score high enough on the ACT to go into Comp. 1, so they take two semesters of Pre-Core English to finally get to the point where they can take the college level class. In short, the average ACT English subscore probably averages out to about a single digit. While I can't promise these students will be the next Pulitzer Prize recipients, I can pretty much guarantee some proficiency when they leave my class. Working with this clientele isn't easy, and it isn't for anybody. Some days, I walk into a very hostile environment, and other days they don't complain; they don't take notes, but they don't piss me off either. Every day, though, they just want me to care about them whether they realize it or not. This semester, I've had the "pleasure" of teaching two young men who, quite frankly, have made me want to rip my own face off since week one. They do just enough that I can't kick them out, but talk about a couple of jerks. Anyway, this morning, to get the students ready for their next test, I would randomly pose questions throughout today's lesson and throw pencils at the students who answered the questions correctly. This seemed to awaken my two fellas, as they pretty much dominated that game. Of course, I ran out of pencils but wanted to keep the momentum going so I just started throwing random pieces of chalk and Post-It note papers at them, which thrilled them just as well. Anyway, I don't understand why such a thing changed their tunes, but it sure did prompt one of them to stay after class, look me dead in the eye, and apologize for his behavior over the last couple of weeks. It seriously brought tears to my eyes, so I had to quickly kick him out before he could see. Right after that class, I met my British Lit. class. This group consists of several with ACT scores in the high twenties and low thirties. (And since I meet this group immediately after Beginning English, it takes me a few minutes to regroup.) For the most part, they are a very bright group of individuals--a little lazy at times, but it doesn't take them long to figure out that Mrs. Brown doesn't play that game. Anyway, I found out yesterday that we get to go on a field trip in a couple of weeks! We will sojourn to Memphis for the Tennessee Shakespeare Company's production of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged. Now, I was excited when the opportunity presented itself this week, but I wasn't sure if my students would get into the idea. However, every single one wants to go, even though we're leaving at seven in the morning. (Of course, they want to get out of school for a day, but they really did seem excited about the play.) Then after discussing the field trip, they pretty much kicked ass on their Middle English translation project, and I think they are looking forward to starting Chaucer next week. So it occurred to me that even though my stress levels have gone through the roof a time or two this semester, I'm proud to have a career as rewarding as what I have. God has looked after me all these years and put me where he needs me, even though I fought tooth and nail while in college to not teach. I guess what I realized today is that even though I go through some hard times at work, at least I feel at home. My band director from Ole Miss used to tell us every day in practice, "You motivate me." I can still see his tall lanky self standing over all three hundred of us in that treehouse of a band tower with his hands clasped together taking just a few seconds out of our otherwise busy agenda to tell us that (along with "Bringaponchobringaponchobringaponcho"). Took long enough, but I finally get it.