Today I had the unsettling experience of being that teacher of whom the students say things like “Be careful, she’s in a bad mood today”.
You’re not supposed to have moods when you’re a teacher – something that has been rather a struggle for me, being someone who’s fairly, erm, expressive about life’s highs and lows. You’re supposed to maintain a steady, consistent persona of calm and patience, being fair and just every day. Actually, I manage OK, finding that the pleasure I get from teaching helps me to put aside any niggling problems that happen to be swirling around at the back of my mind. This afternoon, however, I failed miserably. I’m pretty sure my elementary students now have several unflattering but mostly deserved nicknames for me. Sigh.
The main problem is that I’ve been passing out, warm and drowsy, before dark for the past few nights – and then waking at 3 or 4am, unable to get back to sleep.
In addition, things are extremely awkward with the colleague I mentioned the other week, whose presence really has changed the atmosphere at work. Annoyed at being patronised and talked down to, I now just try to ensure that we’re not in each other’s presence for any longer than necessary, but it’s not exactly fun. The vibe amongst the staff just isn’t the same as it used to be.
And to cap it all off, this morning I made one of my 5-year-olds cry hysterically (I want to say she brought it on herself, but, well… she’s 5), which left me feeling like a terrible monster.
It was with this combination of sluggishness, irritability, annoyance, and guilt that I went into an afternoon of elementary classes, on a day when they all seemed to have taken leave of their senses and were apparently determined to cause as much noise and chaos as possible. I have 10 precious free minutes in between each class, which I usually spend chatting to the students as they arrive – or at least answering them distractedly from behind my computer and coffee cup. Today, however, I just wanted them to shut up and give my head peace, and became quite irrationally maddened by the fact that they were incapable of seeing this. In the end, I went out onto the small balcony at the end of the corridor and sat, out of sight, taking calming breaths, perspiring, and looking out over the city as I tried to block out the shrieks and shouts from inside.
Of course, they discovered I was there after about two minutes, and, unable to work out how to open the insect screen across the open door, simply hurled themselves against it in an attempt to see me, screaming my name like a crowd of tiny banshees. Hayley teeeeeeeeeeeachhhhhherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!! Muttering darkly under my breath, I went back in with a face like thunder, gave them a piece of my mind for breaking the screen and therefore ensuring that I have a constant supply of mosquito bites from now till Christmas, and proceeded to give the worst afternoon’s teaching of my short career thus far. They remembered nothing I’ve taught them over the past few weeks, they refused to actually think before answering questions, they squabbled and bickered and sulked, and I grew madder and madder until eventually even the most boisterous characters had the sense to shut up and pray for the class to end soon. And oh, did I hate myself! I heard the sharp retorts coming out of my mouth, and I heard myself actually refuse to answer questions with “I am NOT explaining this again, I have told you about 20 times what this word means, we have STUDIED it!!!”, and yet I couldn’t stop.
And yet the children have a weird sort of unconditional love for their teachers. Little 5-year-old Sally will rush up to me tomorrow morning and hug my knees as she always does, her anguish from today forgotten. My elementary students will hurtle in on Friday afternoon full of stories about what they’ve been up to, giving me random gifts like a rice cake or a handmade bracelet. I will regain my patience and explain with a cheerful smile what a word means as if I’ve never even mentioned it to them before, much less given detailed explanations on multiple occasions. They will dazzle me once again with their brilliance.
But all the same, I’d really love it if I could erase days like this altogether. A bad-tempered, irritable teacher is not a nice thing to be.