I asked my husband what he thought about my last post. He said I talked about money too much. Wa-wa.
So here’s something non-money related. Also, if you go to the Stories link at the top of the page and click on Bogeyman, I posted some fiction.
Teaching makes me nervous. Let me rephrase that – everything makes me nervous . Let me rephrase that again – I have a sometimes soul-sucking level of anxiety which obviously makes me perfectly suited for a career in teaching where twenty pairs of eyes are pinned on me at all times for hours every day.
Let me put it this way – on a scale from Emily Dickinson to Howard Hughes, I am Sigourney Weaver’s character from the 1995 movie Copycat. Remember that movie? Probably not, but I always have, mostly because despite the whole ‘almost getting murdered in a bathroom stall’ part, I could totally relate to her (incidentally, since I first saw this movie I have had a completely healthy fear of public bathrooms). Here’s a clip, if you’re still curious. This is pretty much what I look like every time I try to leave my house:
I might not be that bad (yet), but I did one time hide between my bookshelves with a bowl of half-mashed potatoes when I heard my landlord outside mowing the grass. I wanted him to think nobody was home so he wouldn’t knock on the door and try to talk to me. That’s normal, right?
This makes interacting with people at work a little complicated. First, it almost certainly means that I will never receive a promotion at work over someone else who is equally qualified because when I run into my superiors, my personality falls out of my butt. I become loud and awkward. I laugh too easily – nervously – maniacally – I probably sound like a psychopath. Really. They probably think I have actual skeletons in my closet at home, or assorted animal skulls, or at least a Helga-Pataki-level bubblegum shrine resembling my latest stalking victim.
A typical conversation will go like this:
Me: (Seeing boss approaching down a long hallway) Oh no, oh no, oh no. Please turn into that classroom. Please turn – Ah, shit, now I’ll have to talk to him. I better think of something smart or witty to say. Wait – how do I make my mouth look like a smile again? Is it like this?
No no – like this
Yea, this is the right look.
Boss: (Friendly) Hey
Me: I MEAN – HEY – I MEAN – HOW’S – DAaaaay?
Boss: OK, how’s your day going?
Me: YOU TOO! OK BYE. (Running suddenly away)
(He’s charmed, I’m sure.)
It also makes interacting with students a little complicated – and sweaty. Normally, I am incredibly sensitive to the cold to the point that my body starts a mutiny when the temperature falls below 70 degrees, and it begins to drain all the blood out of my appendages. It’s as if there is a tiny submarine in my central nervous system with a tiny captain who bellows through his tiny megaphone when his sensors pick up the first hint of cold: “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! There’s a possibility that it could one day be cold out there. Call the retreat, redcoats! Fall back! Protect the major organs from the onslaught of their impending, icy death.” I call it ‘The White Fingers.’
My favorite gift my husband has ever bought for me was not jewelry or fancy flowers (which tend to sadden me anyway – who wants to watch beautiful bouquet of flowers slowly die on the table – why not just chop off a cat’s head and bring that to me?). No, my favorite gift was the heated blanket he surprised me with last winter (romance done right). I named it Cecil the Blanket. He accused me of loving it more than him. I changed the subject.
When I teach, on the other hand, I sweat profusely from my armpits. Profusely. Like this:
Apparently Axe believes I can solve my problem with their products, but I am loathe to smell like a pubescent boy who hasn’t figured out personal hygiene yet.
When I get home at the end of the day, the first thing I want to do is strip off all my clothes and wash myself while curled up and weeping in the bottom of the shower. Of course, I have to make it through the day first.
One survival solution I’ve come up with is to imagine that I’m a T-Rex (the T stands for Teacher).
I clamp my upper arms firmly against my sides and flail my tiny forearms around trying to write on the board, like this but with words instead of numbers:
Also, whenever students piss me off, I just bite them in their faces (don’t tell them that if they sit perfectly still I can’t see them).
I’m still sweaty, but at least nobody has to stare at my pit stains.
Maybe one day I’ll just slap some maxi pads under there or preemptively soak my entire shirt in the bathroom sink before class. Until then, T-Rex arms.
Of course, it doesn’t help that some students are just giant ass spatulas, even when it comes down to something as simple as the pronunciation of their names. Honestly, I do my best. I want to say every student’s name correctly because I think it is rude and disrespectful to them not to do so and, believe it or not, I try to be respectful to my students at all times. Once they tell me how to say the name, I will continue to say it that way until I DIE with their haphazardly spelled monikers trailing from my lips like Citizen Kane’s beloved Rosebud.
But, allow me to put on my Mama’s Family little old lady wig and glasses to say,
I suppose they think their children are special, so they don’t want to give them average names like Mary or Bobby. I suppose they also want their children to grow into the type of people who make passive-aggressive Facebook status updates about how they’re not going to let the “drama” get to them because they’re unique butterflies or flowers or munchkin cats, or some other nonsense.
People can name their children whatever they want, but I’m not a mind reader and there’s no way I will be able to pronounce some of these loco names correctly on the first attempt.
On the first day of the first class I ever taught, I had the following conversation:
Me: (Reading the name ‘Sherawhn’ from the roster) Sure-on?
Sherawhn: Yea…(eye roll)
Me: I just want to make sure – did I say your name correctly?
Sherawhn: You the English teacher. You should know (lips pushed out with so much defiant attitude it looked like she’d gotten them stuck in an escalator – eyes rolled so far back into her head it looked like she was seizing).
Me: (what I actually said) Nobody, not even English teachers, know how to pronounce every word in the world, especially names with unique spellings.
Me: (what I wanted to say) Do you know how to pronounce ‘vituperator’? Because it means bitch and that is exactly what you are. Please find a bus and throw yourself in front of it, posthaste.
I forgave Sherawhn somewhat. After all, she was clearly fresh out of high school – full of the arrogance of youth. I hope she has matured into a fine young woman, or that at least she’s been enthusiastically b-slapped in the face a few times since then.
However, a few years later I had another student who was obviously old enough to be my grandmother (read: someone who should have known better):
Me: (First day of class, First attendance, I see the name Sheeilaann on my roster. Soo manny unnneeeddeedd letttttersss) She-lan?
Sheeilaan: UH-UH!! nnnNO! UH UH! (Practically shouting – she was kind of like all of these characters rolled into one –
Me: Oh, I’m sorry, did I say it wrong? How is it pronounced?
Sheeilaan: (Wagging her finger and bobbing her head around so fast she looked like a helicopter. I half expected her head to fly off her body and take off out the window) It She-LUN, not She-LAN!!
Me: Well, I’m sorry I said it incorrectly, but there’s no need to have such a bad attitude about it. This is the first time I’ve seen your name. You have my assurance I will say it correctly from now on.
Me: (What I wanted to say) Seriously, everyone who has ever loved you was wrong.
Some other favorite names:
Chris-Xeil (pronounced Chrishell, like Michelle but with Chris at the beginning – naturally)
J’Rae-jaa’ (I don’t even think the poor girl knew how to pronounce this one. I heard her pronounce it at least two different ways to different people. Who can blame her? So much punctuation. Why?)
Aza’lea (Pronounced Ah-zhu-lay, not azalea, like the flower, which is how I said it, much to her dismay).
Satohn (Pronounced Sa-tawn. OK, so this was actually a four-year-old little boy at the daycare where I worked, but it is still one of my favorite names of all time. My question for the parents – why not go all the way and just name your baby Satan?)
Sugar Dick – A colleague of mine had this student – this was her given first and last name. A Google search reveals some. . . horrifying things, but also the fact that this name combination is more common than I want to believe. The only possible justification for this is if the baby was born with a birthmark in the shape of a tiny g-string with dollar bills sticking out of it. The parents would then figure, “Well, it’s obviously her destiny to be a stripper, so we’d better equip her with the best stripper name possible. That way she can be the best darn stripper in the whole wide world!” I imagine her childhood was a lot like this little girl’s, whose parents actually dressed her up like Julia Roberts playing a prostitute in Pretty Woman.
The majority of my students are completely understanding, normal, rational humans, but for me and my unending levels of anxiety, teaching is like walking through a field where I know for sure a land-mine has been buried (because there’s usually at least one Cray Charles in the bunch). I anticipate it, I wait for it, I dwell on it. I mean, if some of them are willing to expend so much energy becoming angry over a simple mistake in name pronunciation, just imagine what they will do to me when I turn into Teacher-Rex and bite them in their faces.