Or, "Rules for Short, Young Looking Teachers." Coming, of course, from exactly one week of teaching experience.
Rule #1: Use the Fear They Came With
After months of going back and forth between what my students should call me, I decided to go with my first name for several reasons:
1. My personal pedagogy really does dictate it.
2. They are more scared than I am
3. Since they are more scared than I am, one more barrier isn't necessary.
Thus, Rhetorical it is.
The school system has already sufficiently pounded them into submission, so use that natural fear if you have first time teacher concerns. Sure, it may go against your personal feminist philosophy, but damn, it sure helps you get through that first week! (Besides, being called "Ms. Twist" made my insides curl...)
Rule #2: Get a Killer Outfit
If you are scared out of your mind about teaching, you need The Killer Outfit. Put your well honed visual rhetoric skills to work: gray dress slacks, a black button down shirt, heels, and pearls (not real pearls, mind you, but they get the job done). This creates "instant teacher," otherwise known as: "I am older than you, despite external signifiers that may indicate otherwise." There is something super official sounding about high heels clicking on those wooden floors. To complete the persona, perfect the jingle of keys in your hands that indicates, "I have an office," and the stride. To maximize the official sounding click from those high heels, you have to get the pacing right. It can't be too hurried, nor too leisurely. It has to be just right and clearly convey, "I've got heels on. Fear me 'cause I'm all kinds of official."
Rule #3: Learn the Proper Facial Expressions
No matter how huge that silence is in your class, never let the very casual, "I've done this SO many times before" look come off your your face. This can be really difficult if you walk into class 10 minutes early to set up and they are completely silent, just STARING at you, even after saying, "you guys can keep chatting you know." Silence. "Or not." It will be the 10 bloody longest minutes of your life, but don't break.
Rule #4: Lie your ass off
For the nervous first time teacher, a few well placed indicators that you've taught before, or you're older than you look, can be helpful. Practice phrases such as these:
~"I had a student once..."
~"When I was an undergrad (of course, that was back in the day)..."
~"I've been studying English longer than I care to admit"
~"I'm going to try something that I haven't previously attempted in my other classes..."
Yeah, you are lying, but it does make you giggle a little on the inside.
4 years ago