A teacher needs the focus of an air traffic controller
I liked this blog post about what teachers and air traffic controllers have in common.
Take a look at this short excerpt:
‘teachers make MORE DECISIONS in any given hour in a classroom than any air traffic controller – AND TEACHERS QUITE LITERALLY DO IT ON THEIR FEET and then, after a more than eight hour day, go home to grade papers and prepare for the next day (as well as attend meetings and deal with parents of all ilks).’
I will give some concrete examples to illustrate how teachers are constantly required to make decisions that can have a deep impact on the students’ academic progress, on the group dynamic, but also, and very critically, on the feelings and the self-image of the students.
If you ask me a good teacher is devoted. The amount of hours that creep into the teaching profession is simply daunting. Not only is there the actual work, but it’s also the kind of job you take with you under the shower, to your pillow at night and in your dreams. If you care about your teaching job, you find yourself shampooing your hair and wondering if you should employ the carrot or the stick in a particular case, whether there is a more original way to explain the use of the future perfect continuous and whether you’re giving them enough exercises on the use of question tags. It is definitely not a 9 to 5 job. And students can be critical, demanding and can be outright testing your limits. So you better be devoted or you’ll lock the students in the basement and storm the hell out of the school. If you have a strong enough why you can deal with any how, and damn it, you better hang that piece of wisdom above your whiteboard in big shiny letters.
You also need to be affable. You need to have love inside you. The curriculum can be hard medicine and it will often only go down if the students feel that you really care about them. It will take you across some of the rough patches of the academic highway. It’s not smooth sailing all the way, but love and showing that you care will weather the storms.
Of course you need to be nurturing, that’s a given. You need to want to donate all you’ve got. The students’ growth is at stake and you have to determine what it is they need. That’s a very egoless state you have to be able to work yourself into. It’s not about what you need, it’s about what they need. The tricky part is that they still are the students, they are often not able to tell you what it is they need. This you’ll have to sense. Which brings us to:
You need to be intuitive. Students will often see you as the big scary or obnoxious authority, and even if they like you a lot, it can be daunting for them to tell you what’s on their mind. In order to know what’s needed you’ll have to bring lots of intuition into play.
I’m not saying an introvert can’t be a good teacher, but in front of a class, well, it helps to at least give off an extravert vibe. You can be something like an overly bashful mute outside of the classroom, but in front of your students it helps to wield the outward projected energy of the extravert. It galvanizes the students. Luckily, I know quite a bit of introverts, and even some friends who are a bit autistic, who become extraverts if you unleash them in front of a group. Some introverts perform live music for 50,000 people.
You do need to be levelheaded. You can’t be a slave to your emotions when dealing with groups. Anything can happen when you’re working with a group, and they ride on your fundamental emotions. They are the sail, but you are the wind. You better blow in the same, steady direction, or you’ll create pandemonium.
It helps if you’re open-minded, especially when you work with young people, because our culture is of course constantly changing, and it’s a big plus if you can, say, roll with the punches of the ever evolving youth culture.
It’s an old-fashioned word, but yes, I do think you need to be virtuous. You need to have certain values that you live by. They don’t have to be too outspoken, but students will sense it if you stand for something. This doesn’t mean you should lambest them with your own personal agenda and propaganda, but it’s ok to let students know you treasure certain values. This is done best if you are clad in those virtues and live by them, than by merely talking about them. Walk the talk.
If you combine all these traits, then damn it, you are an amazing individual, at least in my book, and it certainly helps if students see something in you, even something small, that is worth emulating.
2. Why I’m not too worried about my student who snorted sugar in class today
So, as mentioned higher up, when you’re teaching you need the focus of an air traffic controller, and even then some things will inevitably escape your attention.
Today I all of a sudden notice that one of my students is cutting up sugary tablets with a credit card. Before I can say anything some other students gather round him and yup, he snorts several thick lines of sugar up his nose.
I ask him if he’s ok, because his eyes are turning alarmingly red. He says his nose and his eyes hurt a bit. I ask if he does this a lot and he says no. I politely ask him to not do it again.
Why am I not screaming at this, otherwise sweet boy, with the sweet tooth, I mean nose?
Well, meet my good friend Pieterjan.
He’s a neurologist. Father of beautiful twins.
He used to snort sugar up his nose in highschool.
3. If a student is mesmerized by his or her own crotch, it can mean two things:
The student is on his or her phone, below the desk, or masturbating.
So far it’s always been the first case.
You need to have an eye for this. They usually cut it out immediately if you ask if they’re masturbating.
I mean, not only can’t they possibly be paying attention like that, it’s just pretty bad for their neck, staring under their desk like that, and neck pain is one of those ailments that require intense loving care, which can only be administered after or before school hours, between two consenting adults, so as a teacher teaching teenagers you have to take preventive measures.
4. When you grow up in the safety of a sleepy village, you can savour the wild side of live all the merrier when the time is ripe
I have the impression that those who discover the wild side of life a bit later in life, after a sheltered childhood, know all the better to suck the marrow out of life at the right time and the right place.
Vsetko ma svoj cas, they say around here in Slovakia, everything has its time.
5. You can tell a lot from the way people treat the waiter
I have always found that shitty, insecure people treat waiters in a shitty way and that someone with a good heart and an appreciation for hard work will tip generously and unblinkingly without expecting any praise in return.