On the day I was sworn in as a first-grade teacher, I took an oath to enrich the lives of my students. I promised to feed them insights, life lessons and plenty of snacks. I dreamt of being invited to the White House to meet the First Lady, my ten best students in tow, beaming in their tiny gowns and tuxedos, ready to deliver our groundbreaking keynote on domestic spending—a presentation we would have concocted on a rainy afternoon during indoor recess. I was, to put it mildly, idealistic.
When I met my first class of students, however, I hadn’t counted on their constant runny noses, interminable stories about pets, and a fascistic demand for jellybeans. I saw my dream crumble before my eyes, like so many animal crackers. The children wouldn’t even focus long enough for us to agree upon key loopholes of mortgage fraud. Instead of the bright, eager minds I had been promised, I was faced with a roomful of imbeciles that could only be placated with the promise of jellybeans. So, I began to do what any teacher would in such a hopeless situation: I shut my mouth, bought a few sticker books, and kicked the fuck back.
If they wanted to act a bunch of assholes, it was my Montessori-trained imperative to support those interests.
Since then, coloring, screaming, jumping on shit; whatever they want to do, goes. At Open House night, I told the families that I was dedicated to borrowing from the “unschooling” movement and would be taking a more abstract approach to educating their children. Then, privately, I took each set of parents aside and told them that their kid was the farthest behind of the whole class and should probably be moved to a different school. One by one, my class is getting down to a reasonable enough number that I can just park them in front of the craft closet and take a nap. I’ve been consistently napping for over five years since, and have never looked back.
My life has taken a very different turn from what I expected, but it feels so good to get this confession off my chest. And if you need me, you’ll know where to find me: sitting on the Reading Corner carpet with a “World’s Greatest Teacher” mug of cold medicine and a smile on my face.