A blog by Lori Lyons

Monday, September 3, 2018

The family business

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A typical teacher in the 1960s, when I started school. She doesn't look hungover at all!

When I look back on my years as an elementary student, I realize I had the most fabulous school teachers in the world.

Every day they would show up to Lisa Park Elementary School right on time.

Not only that, every day they were perfectly coifed with their 1960s beehive hairdos that must have taken hours to fix. Their makeup was always on point. And they were always -- I mean always perfectly dressed in not-too-mini skirts with panty hose that never ran and heels to boot! No yoga pants for them!

Us kids would see them stroll in from the parking lot with a purse on one shoulder and a stack of papers in the other. They didn't have these new fangled wheelie crates and briefcases. No sir.

And they made it all look so easy.

But now, I wonder.......

Did they ever throw on yesterday's pantyhose and sniff the pits of that dress because they didn't have the time to do the laundry?

I wonder if they ever came in wearing last night's makeup because their seventh and eighth grade students were driving them to drink and they spent too many hours at Curley's Bar.

That morning, did they peal out of their driveway trying to beat the clock because they were so exhausted they could barely drag themselves out of bed?

Did they ever just say, "Ah hell no. I'm calling for a sub!" and roll over and go back to sleep.

I'm thinking the answers to all of those questions is, "Hell yeah."

You see, for the past month I've gotten a good, up-close-and-personal look at the teaching profession.

Because I became one.

Through a rather hurried but fortunate (for me) series of events, I went from unemployed freelance sports writer and substitute teacher to full time ELA teacher in just a matter of days, with a classroom to clean, organize and decorate, a curriculum to learn and a copy machine to figure out.

Then came the students -- a bunch of pre-pubescent (and some post) teens with raging hormones, brains that aren't fully functioning yet and a clear lack of self-discipline. I'm still grappling with learning all of their names.

Whatever I call them, I have spent the last month of my life trying very hard to get -- and to keep -- their attention as I try to teach them grammar, punctuation, how to determine the theme of a story and how to write a thesis.

I also had to teach them how to put up with my stunning wit and wisdom. And sarcasm. I like corny jokes. So sue me.

Not surprisingly, it only took me about a week and a half to develop a complete case of laryngitis. I mean nothing came out.

Then there were the lesson plans and handouts and more handouts and more lesson plans and curriculum maps and SLTs and PBIS points and grading and rubrics. I never knew teachers killed so many trees.

And I did all of this while my beloved husband  was off on the trip of a lifetime, taking his American Legion baseball team to the World Series in Shelby, N.C. I mean, they won the Mid-South Regional on a Sunday afternoon and on Monday morning he was on a bus. And he was gone for eight days! So I had to do all of this without him.

I say I joined the family business because he is a teacher. So is his son. So is his son's wife. So is  my husband's ex wife (and she so graciously came to help me clean, organize and decorate my classroom!). My niece is a teacher. Several cousins are teachers. And so are many, many, many of my friends. I have the utmost respect for teachers; always have.

And now I have even more.

This is hard.

No one warned me about how physical a job this is. I walked 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day, just in my classroom. I seriously don't know how my teachers did this in dresses and heels every day. And panty hose? I have very comfortable trousers and very comfortable shoes. On Fridays, we wear jeans and t-shirts.

I carried all my stuff in and out for a couple of days. Then I dug out my mom's crate with wheels that she used to use to bring her groceries in. I laughed at her. Now I'm thinking this is the greatest invention since the hair straightener.

I thought I was clever until I became a teacher. Now I'm just thankful I know how to Google and I have an active Pinterest account. I'm also glad I'm pretty good at thinking on my feet. I've had to do that quite a few times when things didn't go the way they were supposed to.

And I'm thankful that I have so much support. My fellow teachers have been so there for me, showing me the ropes, explaining the hows and the whys, the whens and the wheres. A lot of people believe in me. Not all, but most.

Some roll their eyes when I tell them I'm teaching seventh and eighth graders. Some outwardly cringe and say, "No way!" I get that. I do. I said it too a month ago. But after a while, they start to grow on you.

I figure, if I can handle a bunch of prima donna coaches, I can handle a bunch of middle schoolers.


Basically I've learned that teaching is just saying the same thing 25 different ways.

It's regulating teenage bladders. And mouths. And hands, And brains.

It's teaching teenagers how and when to use a pencil sharpener. And a Sharpie. And a highlighter.

It's teaching them when not to chew gum, when not to interrupt others and when not to shout out the first thing that pops into their heads.

It's realizing that, no matter how you say it, no matter how many times you say it, no matter when, where or what color you write it on the board, they're still going to forget when the test is.

And you have to give it to them anyway.