The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 02 2012

My Boring Blowup

Day 20:

If I had to boil my early-year success down to one word, it would be poise. I feel more confident in everything I do, whether that’s managing the classroom, lesson planning, relationship building, or talking to parents. Today began with one of my favorite demos, the infamous “Sewer Lice” trick, and I had two classes in hysterics at the thought that their Science teacher had just consumed poo-water (he hadn’t, fyi). I was feeling pretty good about myself.

However, it took only one small sentence to take away my poise:

“Today was kind of boring.”

In an instant, I was reduced from poised super-teacher to an immature shell of an adult. First, I covered up my frustration with mock indignation: “What do you mean that was boring! I drank sewage water for you!” M, the owner of the damning review, smiled awkwardly, unclear whether her Science teacher was kidding around or legitimately distraught. For the record, her Science teacher was equally unclear on the matter.

Second, I tried to change the subject … to a guilt trip. “M, do you know how hard your teachers work on your lessons? How do you think it made me feel when you said the lesson was boring?” I inherently knew this wasn’t what I cared about, nor was “boring” disrespectful enough for me to raise the point with any vigor, so I let my voice trail off and sent M to class.

Third, I ruminated … and overreacted. Was it a boring class? I guess there had been a lot of notes. Could I have fixed that somehow? Would M have been less bored? Would we have been able to do more practice? Would I not have seen all of my kids’ investment in my class go poof in one day? Would I not have ruined my chances at Teacher of the Year?!?

Fourth and finally, I tried for schadenfreude … and failed. In afternoon homeroom, I asked M, “So, were all your classes boring? Was I at least the least boring?” She innocently turned to me and said, “No. Ms. P was the least boring.” Mind you, there was no malice here – just innocent reporting. Which, mind you, made me feel even worse.

It wasn’t until an hour or so later that I realized what an absurd human being I’d been. Could the lesson have been paced better? Yes. Should we have had more time for practice? Also yes. But had I taught worse lessons? Absolutely. Would most students remember the lesson fondly for the time Mr. A chugged sewage water? Probably … even if “fondly” isn’t exactly the right word.

All of this is to say that I’m likely a little too fixated on being the most interesting teacher of all time. I’m a fun teacher, and a lot of the time, I’m going to make Science class a fun place to be. But there will be off moments and off days. I need to roll with the punches and not overreact every time a student thinks I’m boring. If I’m going to be a poised and confident teacher, I need to act like a poised and confident teacher.

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