On Attitude

Is there anything more impossible than teaching in a bad mood?

And yet… what other choice do we have?

Despite my daily affirmations of, “Keep your smile on!” and “Positivity engenders positivity!” I must confess that I do occasionally find myself in a foul temper while at school. Sometimes there is a reason or culprit behind the gloom, and sometimes it’s Just One Of Those Things – ponderous, pitiful, and ultimately impossible to escape without the aid of Netflix or ice cream, both of which are likely hours away. It’s a terrible scenario.

I suppose I should be glad I possess the self-awareness to identify when I am in these moods, as well as whether or not they are rational, but navel-gazing hasn’t yet provided me a means to getting out of said moods, which is a disappointment. When I feel the dark cloud descending over an otherwise uneventful Wednesday, all I want is to escape it. I long for my usual easy smile and live-and-let-live vibe. Instead, I am tense and testy, ready to snap at any perceived offense. And, naturally, as I am in a negative frame of mind anyway, perceived offenses come swift and thick.

A bad day at work is the worst, because it just doesn’t stop. A good or even tolerable day will vanish into the mist when you step over the threshold into your own home, but a bad day just… lingers. Tomorrow’s work hovers over you like a ghoul rather than a stressful but acceptable companion. An entire 24-hour block (at least) is poisoned by the bad mood.

And you know it’s pointless. You still have to teach your classes. You still have to smile, so your bad mood doesn’t escape and infect the already-angsty teens you teach. You have to get up the next day and do it all again.

So there must be a way out – an emergency exit to this cycle of malaise. If only I could find it…

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On Essays

I wonder if my teachers growing up assigned things like essay quizzes and tests partially to have some quiet time to catch their breath. You know, like I do. I assume they did. I mean, we’re all human, right? We all need a break.

Of course, essay quizzes are not without merit. Students need to write – need to learn to communicate ideas and analyze text through writing. They also need (for character building purposes) to feel the cold sweat of fear if they are utterly unprepared for said essay quiz and then have to spend the class scrambling for something – anything – to say.

But it doesn’t hurt that I get a few classes of silence, either. Sweet, sweet silence, in which I can work on the various and sundry things that are crowding my desk and giving me cold sweats.

I wonder if my students have cottoned on to this. I never did. I always assumed that my teachers did everything in the name of some sort of education goal. Well, my English teachers anyway. Math and Science teachers were always suspect.

I hope that none of them sees through me. Honestly, I don’t fear it that much. They barely think of me as an actual person. I am simply the arbiter of Englishness, the giver of grades and provider of grammar-related puns. Surely my secret desire for a classroom filled only with the sounds of scratching pencils and the ticking of the minute hand can’t be visible in my eager, essay-assigning grin.

There is, of course, a downside. For every day I luxuriate in quietude, there is a day of reckoning set aside for me. A day of red pen (or purple, if you’re me), paper cuts, and general frustration. Every essay requires a grade, and every grade will strike its sad little gong in my heart.

But for now, the day stretches on tranquilly, an oasis in the turbulent sea that is high school English class.