Hey, everybody, welcome to yet another installment of “Max Tries to Survive His First Year of Teaching in a Different Country.”
It’s hard to give one word summaries of how two weeks have been, because things have been on an uptick, but the bad and the good seem to go hand-in-hand.
For instance, if you didn’t here, the prodigal sis will be on American soil this December.
I didn’t plan on going home for the holidays, because of how expensive it is, but I got into a conversation about cheap flight tickets with a co-worker, which led to us researching prices. The prices really hadn’t changed, but I started debating, “Should I go home??” I went back and forth for a few minutes, before deciding to do it because the prospect of going home made my heart flutter a bit.
So that’s the good, here’s the bad: the following day, the American presidential election finally came to a close with a fairly bitter result for those of us outside the demographic that supported the winning candidate.
That morning, I had my headphones in from the time I got on campus, until the very second I had to take them off and deal with other responsibilities. There was no way I was going to get through that morning without blaring some Carly Rae J. to pump myself up.
Alas, even Carly R. J.’s smash-hit, pop-sensation of an album, E•MO•TION, could not lift me up from how harsh and surreal that morning was. The day prior, I literally dread the idea of having to deal with snarky remarks from students and co-workers about the outcome if Hillary did not win.
You’re all aware of how this year and half long election ended, so going into Wednesday classes, I decided if students brought it up, then I would have a collective conversation with them about it. Surely enough, I had a discourse about the election with nearly all my classes.
With each class, I opened with, “The election is not a joke, Donald Trump is not a joke. The decisions he makes will have consequences for much longer than the four years he is in office.”
I had to explain to all my classes what the Supreme Court was and how going forward it will most likely become predominantly red, which in turn could lead to serious, negative consequences for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people.
A lot of them were afraid a new war was going to happen that day and I told them that anything that drastic won’t happen overnight, it will take some time before we see what the explicit repercussions of this new presidency are.
I, in layman’s terms, explained that America is a superpower and that anything that happens to it affects the rest of the world, but currently, in this math classroom, we are safe and we will be fine.
I told them that what they do need think about is not the extremes, for example, building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Realistically, that probably won’t happen, but those mentalities, the idea that immigrants are terrorists or menacing, are going to thrive because of who is in office.
I also told each and every class that everything I have to say is my opinion and perception of the situation from my own life and what I’ve taken in via media and the larger world.
I highlighted that this is personal to me because I am both gay and half of my DNA comes from a family that is not white, from the very people a wall is meant to keep out and even if I wasn’t both of those things, this election still affects and endangers so many people.
All that being said, I had never seen my classes so engaged and quiet before. If you ever want to minimize how serious the election is, tell that to my South Asian students whose eyes were glued on me as I talked about xenophobia.
I think the conversation was cathartic for both me and the students because it was something I needed to talk about personally and it was something the students were scared of and/or interested in. It also makes for a very interesting conversation when you are the only American in the room, like I was.
But on more optimistic fronts, things are picking up for li’l ol’ Max in the actual teaching of mathematics. Last week, I did my very first cover lesson, which is basically when you sub for someone else in the department.
It was me and a handful of other staff in this tenth grade class (reminder I only teach sixth through ninth grade), but because my ass loves attention, I facilitated the entire lesson.
I had a ball because:
- I love teaching older kids; they have a bit more maturity to them and better understand my humor.
- But also, these weren’t my students. The past eight weeks of mistakes, trials, tribulations, successes were irrelevant to these students; the only thing that mattered was what I brought to the table then and there.
It was what I imagine year two will be like: a fresh slate where I am able to apply all the knowledge I have now.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but I was bubbly and having enough fun that I didn’t even care that I sacrificed an hour of my planning time to teach.
The following week, I had my very first parent-teacher conference night, which resulted in me speaking with twenty-three students’ parents and me being at the school for a solid twelve hours.
This particular conference was with my seventh graders, who are in an honors class, so there wasn’t much to say except that they’re good kids that tend to get a little chatty.
The students are told to come along with their parents, which was great because it gave me an insight into students’ relationships with their parents. For instance, some of the behavioral issue students froze up in the presence of their parents, while others were prepping them for anything negative I might say to them.
Overall, I had fun and got a free sandwich or two out of it (food was provided), so what’s a few more hours of my time?
There was this one really fun instance in which a parent commented on how relaxed their kid was in my presence. The parent said that we obviously had a pretty good rapport and I was thinking, “Do we??” because every other day I have to tell that student to get off the floor or stay in their chair.
The student and I exchanged looks because I like that student, but there’s nothing exceptional about our rapport. Then, the parent goes, “Oh, it must be because you’re just one of the lads.”
I wanted to laugh because I am absolutely not one of the lads, like my gay self wouldn’t be caught dead being “one of the boys,” but I laughed and said something along the lines of “haha, yeah” (see first blog post).
The next few days I began to notice behavioral progress with my students. For example, my home room class was being rowdy as usual, so I reprimanded them and told them we were just going to read silently. The progress here is that a majority of them actually listened to me?
I don’t think I have gone into the whole ordeal with my home room period, but five weeks ago, they would have absolutely not listened to me. It’s these small, implicit moments where, even if everything is not going perfectly, attitudes or behaviors are shifting. This may come off as the bar being low, but these little victories are honestly very significant.
The fact that this one student has stopped arguing with me about where they sit and actually did not have to be sent out during class is a huge deal. Progress and success don’t always happen through grand gestures, sometimes it’s in really small moments that are easily overlooked if you’re not looking in the right place.
To end on a fun note, here is a list two my students have compiled of the various things I have said in class:
my favorite is “me too gurl, me too”