I remember when Keith Stangler, a classmate of mine in seventh grade, put a tack on Mr. Kelly’s chair. He was our math teacher. When he sat down, he sat right back up. He didn’t crack a smile and I don’t remember what he said. I think it was something like, “If I ever catch...“ None of us laughed but you can believe we were laughing about it after class. When Mr. Kelly went to the faculty lounge he probably mentioned it to his fellow teachers and they also had a good laugh.
I was sent to the principal’s office for chewing gum in third grade. Miss Rossow sat me down outside the principal’s office and there I stayed. Mr. Mahler, our principal, never did come out to talk to me. I would have offered him a stick of gum. Miss Rossow eventually came to check on me and said I could return to the classroom. I didn’t ask her if she wanted any gum.
One of the things I enjoyed most as a principal was having students come to my office to just talk. It’s those moments when trust is built. I always told teachers that when you run out of things to teach, just spend the rest of the time taking turns to tell stories.
It could turn out to be a record-breaking year for the least number of kids sent to the principal’s office. Too bad, kids won’t have any juicy stories to tell.
What makes teaching fun are the stories. Every student and teacher has one or two or three. This year there will be lots of stories to tell, which serve to make teaching what it is. We don’t remember too much about what we teach but we do remember the day-to-day stories.
COVID-19 changes many things but it doesn’t change the fact that regardless of the grade level including college, teaching is fun. Here are some things teachers can look forward to that will make the year of COVID-19 memorable.
- You still can get excited about the first day of school.
- At any grade level, you can embellish your teaching with stories. Everyone likes stories.
- You can tell your students that this year will be a year they will tell their children and grandchildren about.
- You can tell riddles and dumb jokes to students.
- You can tell stories that begin with “When I was your age. . .”
- You can give your students a pop quiz.
- You get valentines from your students — sometimes at all grade levels. On special days, you can celebrate a little.
- You will be remembered by some students who you think would never remember you.
- If there is a blizzard and you are teaching virtually, your students won’t have to miss any school. Is that a blessing or a curse?
- On some days you can just forget about your lessons and talk about the weather or a new movie or song or the Vikings or how you need to help a relative that is sick.
- You can dress kind of weird and your students will appreciate it, even when you teach virtually.
- You can play games with students.
- You get to greet students and ask them how they are doing.
- You get to wish students a happy birthday.
- You learn something about their family — some things that you probably don’t need to hear.
- You can tell your students some things about your family.
- You have the opportunity to talk to your students about how they learn and then plan accordingly.
- You can teach students things they previously didn’t know.
- You can learn about your class and what they enjoy and don’t enjoy.
- You can ask your students what they did over the summer.
- If you do have face-to-face classes, you get to smell all of those interesting odors that are particular to every school.
- You get to serve as a parent, counselor, traffic controller, soothsayer, enforcer, negotiator, confidant, mentor, tutor, and, when time allows, you get to teach.
- You get to show pictures of your family and see pictures of your students’ families.
- You get to remind students about the high expectations you have for them.
- You get to remind students about how important education is.
- You get to show your students your high school diploma.
- You get to tell your students they can do better because you know they are smart.
- You get to talk about what’s on TV and who’s who in sports.
- You get to share your favorite music and learn what your students like.
- You get to say, “This is my classroom.”
- Occasionally you receive a note that says, “Thanks, for being my teacher.”
- You get to assign students’ homework and listen to their complaints.
- You get to say to your students,”See you tomorrow. Don’t forget to do your homework. But, most of all, don’t forget to graduate.”
Teaching is stressful. This year will prove to be more stressful than usual. In spite of the atypical year, the joy and fun of teaching still remains and this is what teachers need to remember when they meet their students on the very first day face-to-face or virtually. It’s up to teachers to continue to put the joy into learning and make it memorable for students as well as for themselves.
Riddle: Why should teachers wear sunglasses whenever they teach? (Answer: To remind the students how bright they are.) The job of building confidence in students begins on day one when teachers remind students that they are capable of learning whatever the teacher is teaching.
Parents, begin to check at your local convenient and food stores about Homeschooling Tips For Parents. The booklets may just contain the one or two tips you are looking for that will help your children graduate.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.