This year, for the first time in my 15 years of teaching, I am a mentor for a first year teacher. I remember my first year. Some days, I’m sure that everything went swimmingly, with students all doing exactly what I had planned for them. But those are not the days I remember. I remember collapsing in her room, head in hand, and sobbing my frustration into her sympathetic ears. There are many reasons to become a mentor, but Kathy is my reason. I felt the need to give back.
We had planned for her to come watch my worst class, which has students who are motivated to learn mixed with those who resent teacher authority and work to derail the others. She and I share the sophomore class, and some of my problem children cause her trouble as well. But the week we had planned, she got the stomach flu. Then we had an inservice day, and everyone scrambled to grade their “pre-assessment” tests that no one thought we were really going to use. Then we had nine weeks grades due. So the deadline stretched out into the future.
This past Friday, she suggests Monday as a possible day that I could come see her class. Great, I think, except that it’s the second to the last period of the day, and there is no way I can find someone to cover my class on Monday in that small amount of time. So I email my principal and vice principal, asking them if they can come watch my class.
And here’s the dilemma: my students are reading a novel, The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey. In this novel, the narrator swears. Since I’ve asked my administrators to hit play on the audio file, they’re going to hear my voice, reading the swear words. The students are chatting their textual analysis into an online chatroom, something that we’ve practiced twice before. We ask our students to keep the profanity out of the classroom, with the idea that private speech and public speech are separate.
So now I wonder: how will my principal react to hearing profanity? Let’s hope it goes well.