I almost failed my semester of student teaching. It was my senior year in college, and I was assigned to a very low income school in Lansing, Michigan. The third graders in my class were always sad and disheveled because of their difficult lives at home. So I mostly tried to make them smile.
Halfway through the semester, my supervising teacher called me in. Seems that she asked the kids to write me letters, telling me what they thought of my teaching so far. Most of them read something like:,”Miss Ochs: you are hot. I love you.” or “Miss Ochs: you are funny and silly and really pretty.”
I was shocked at these notes for a couple of reasons. First: being that it was my senior year in college, I was extremely hung over every day, and very rarely brushed my hair. (But I was secretly glad someone thought I still looked good.) Second: that I was in trouble for these notes. My 20-year veteran teacher explained to me that although it was o.k to make the kids laugh and smile at times, my job was to teach them. They didn’t need to laugh at me to learn from me.
So, I buckled down, changed my tone, and passed the semester. I got my teaching degree. But I never taught again. I just couldn’t figure out how to educate people without being myself.
When we recently canceled our family trip to Europe, we asked our travel agent to just send us somewhere. Anywhere. So, she sent us to the Dominican Republic. Which, contrary to what my husband initially explained to the kids, is not in Mexico. She booked us at a hotel I like to call, “This is what is available for five people three weeks before Christmas.”
The first day of our trip, I found a Zumba class on the beach. I was very excited. There were lots of women and at the beginning, we had to introduce ourselves and say what country we were from. Then the instructor put us all in a long line and told us to put our hands on each other’s shoulders. Then she told us to start rubbing. And as I massaged ladies from Germany, Russia, and England I realized: I don’t think that this is a Zumba class.
As the week went on, I learned many things. I learned that although I think I speak fairly good Spanish due to 2 years of high school classes and 15 years working as a defense attorney in Arizona, I’m really only handy when it comes to conjugating verbs or finding out if someone wants a jury trial. Also, according to my family, I sound “embarrassingly white” while speaking it. (Like Janice from Friends)
I learned that I can now add parasailing to the things that I can no longer do because of motion sickness. No one tells you that you can’t swing on swings or go on amusement park rides after you turn 40. No one tells you how embarrassing it is to dry heave over the Atlantic Ocean for 20 minutes in front of a boat load of strangers.
I learned that eight days is way too long to go to an all-inclusive resort when each person in your family has gotten sick at at least one of the restaurants. It’s also too long to be out of the county, when all your kids really want in life is to have good internet connection.
All of these things I have learned are hard lessons. And they are (in retrospect), mostly funny.
After my last blog, I also learned how much my frustration with life has saddened you. I received so many supportive messages telling me to hang in there. You told me that my humor has taught you that you aren’t alone out there in this crazy-ass world.
So onwards we go to 2016. This year, I will keep hoping for human kindness and decency to return to our world. In the meawhile, I will also keep trying to laugh at the ridiculousness that surrounds me every single day. And then I’ll keep coming home to write it all down snd share it with you.
Maybe my supervisor was wrong. Maybe you can teach and be funny at the same time.
And maybe the tough lessons that we all have to learn, and the sad ones and the gut-wrenching painful ones, are actually easier to deal with if we learn them all together. And if you have a good teacher, she can show you the humor or the bright side in almost any situation.
So thanks for letting me be your teacher. You are all wonderful students. Thank you all for your continued support, comments love and laughter.