“How do you spell ‘homework’?” I ask Angel.
She looks at her workbook, which is laying open on my desk. I’m checking her finished work and have found a spelling error. Her brow furrowed, she looks at me.
“How do you spell ‘home’?” I ask. She quickly spells it out loud.
“How do you spell ‘work’?” Again, she blurts out the spelling. I tap my red pen on what she has in her book. Angel considers her answer, then suddenly smacks her palm to her forehead. She turns to me, mouth in a wide smile, her eyes bright with understanding. Grabbing her book, she races back to her seat to correct her work.
Fiona is next in line. She thumps her book onto my desk, and I go over every single answer, checking for spelling, spacing issues, ugly penmanship, you name it. A small class of six students means I’m a brutal grader.
I loudly make the “incorrect buzzer” sound and circle one of her answers.
“Whyyyyy?” Fiona whines, trailing off as I circle more of her work and say, “Nuh uh.”
“What is that word, Fiona?” I point with my red point and watch her face as she processes my question.
“…’tape’,” she answers.
“Nope. That’s ‘tap’. How do you spell ‘tape’?”
“T… A… P… E?” She knows she’s right and looks at me for approval. I nod and again tap my pen on her work.
“Where is your E, Fiona?”
“oooOOOOOH!” She gets it. I pick up her workbook and gently smack it against her chest. “Fix it!” I declare, and she giggles as she rushes back to her seat.
Ethan, a smarty-pants who acts like he thinks he could teach the class, is next. He smugly puts his book on my desk and waits for the inevitable check mark at the bottom: the signal that he’s done with the page.
I go through his work. All the answers are correct, but his handwriting is fast and choppy. His letters don’t rest on the lines.
I’m aware of three very important facts in this moment. First, I get on him all the time about his handwriting, but he rarely acts on my requests that he write better. Second, the other kids are five minutes away from being done, which means he’d have free time if I gave him the check mark. Lastly, and most importantly, his ego is annoying. Time for some fun.
“Hey Ethan,” I say, as he’s distracted and looking away.
“What,” he responds, turning back to me and reaching for his book.
“All your answers are right, but your handwriting is ugly. Make it pretty.”
He’s alarmed. “Why.” His responses are rarely questions. I’m excited, though, because the balance of power is being restored. I flash a wide grin.
“You are right, but your letters are ugly. What is this letter?” I tap my pen against something that might be an M.
It takes him a second, and I raise my eyebrows and stare at his face. He knows I’m watching him, and I see his arrogance fading.
Before he responds, I pick up his book and hand it to him. “Make it beeeeeyoooootiful!” I crow. He walks back to his seat as Jean approaches my desk. She has a smirk on her face.
“Ethan has ugly writing,” she says as I go through her work. Her answers are correct, but I’m about to wipe the smirk off her face.
“So do you. All your answers are right, but make the writing pretty. Ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly,” I say as I point out several words. She lets out an exaggerated groan and returns to her seat, but I know she’s happy that all her answers are right. Jean also understands that I got on her case because she made fun of Ethan. Anytime the kids call each other out, I call out their mistakes. They know it’s coming.
I’m not the best teacher out there, and I’m not meant to be a teacher for the rest of my career, but I enjoy it. The kids are fun. I enjoy witnessing their epiphanies and have fun watching them as they figure stuff out.
I came across this quotation and it really impacted me. I hope I’m cool.
…when you were in school, your favourite teachers were just really cool human beings who happened to be playing the role of teacher. And there were other ones that we didn’t get along with who were busy being a teacher. It really sums it up in all areas of life, from policeman to parents.
There are people who are naturally cool human beings, impeccably doing the role of parenting. There are others who are so busy being parents, and are so attached to that role, that the person gets evaporated and that’s where problems start arising and dishonesty happens.