Identity, Writing

Schooled in the Ways of Crap

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school . . .

I have always loved that song by Paul Simon.  I wasn’t entirely sure I agreed with it, because I did, in fact, learn lots of useful things, but his thrumming on the guitar was so infectious I’d bounce along in time.

Then I became a teacher.  I student-taught in high school, but ended up in the seedy underbelly of the ancient junior high building I attended myself as a skittish prepubescent.  Many of the veterans I spoke to said junior high was where we all started out, paid our dues, and then transferred to the high school.  The general tone was that no one wanted to spend much time with the roiling turmoil that was the junior high population.  I can still hear the words of a talented veteran, though, who also happened to be the mother of a good friend I made in that school years earlier.  She said stay put until you earn tenure and if still like junior high kids at that end of those three years, this is where you’re meant to be.

I spent the next seven years with junior high kids, teaching English/Language Arts.

I might still be there if it weren’t for an extended leave after the birth of my second child that turned into stay-at-home-mom-dom and a third child.

I’m still very much a teacher, though.  And not just in the “parents are the first teachers” sort of way.  It’s definitely a mindset.  I’ve kept all the instructional materials I created, the units of study I formulated, the texts I used to teach.  I still read books in such a way that makes me wonder if I’ve taken my analytical reading to another level or if I’m dissecting it in order to reconstruct it with an imaginary class.  I listen intently to fellow parents’ descriptions of child behavior and learning experiences as if I have a stake in their success or struggle.  I’m sure I make my child’s teachers wonder why I’m nodding as if I know exactly what they’re going to say when they explain how educational standards are once again changing.

These are all positive carry-overs from my teaching career.

There’s also a bane that comes with teaching: the feeling that you never graduate.

I counted down the final days of student teaching until graduation, only to fall headlong into another classroom.  The fact that it was in a junior high that I had already spent two years of my life in added to the sensation of demotion.  Back to homework – because giving it to students means you yourself have it.  And that’s just the correcting.  Not the involved planning (though the planning and successful execution of lessons was by far the most enthralling part of teaching).  You perpetually feel like a student yourself.

Like I did when I sat down to the computer this morning.

Hmm . . . how to start today’s blog entry.  Let’s see.  Well, I started with a question last time.  Oh, a quote?

That’s when I realized I was walking myself through the eight types of leads I’d taught my students.  And that I was as haunted by all that crap I’d learned – and taught – in school as Paul Simon was.  The role of perpetual student did not end when I left the classroom – neither sitting in the desk nor in front of it; it still follows me.  And while it’s humbling and rather uncomfortable to still be learning the lessons I taught my junior high students, it’s validating to know that at least one lesson was valuable if it’s germane to my current writing.  At least that day I wasn’t trying to learn them some crap.


4 thoughts on “Schooled in the Ways of Crap

  1. This spoke to me: “but ended up in the seedy underbelly of the ancient junior high building.” I was in the underbelly of the underbelly and I’m “learning” all you’re laying down, lady!

    Having been there with you, I agree. It never leaves us, and I am so grateful for all of the twelve (extra–on top of my own prepubescent two!) years I spent in junior high. It was amazing. You were amazing! Your students loved you and your friend was right. Your time there was well spent, because you were “good” at junior high. There aren’t enough teachers who want to be in with “those types of students”… Your former students are better because you chose to stay for as long as you were meant to… 🙂


    • Jennifer Butler Basile says:

      I was actually thinking of the ‘cellar dwellers’ as I wrote this! Fondly, of course!

      Thank you for the amazing validation. Teaching was definitely a challenge for me. Your kind words give me important perspective. It was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?


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