No good nickname

Anyone in education knows that being clever is an necessity. You may not be smarter than you students in a lot of things, but through your years in teaching you will certainly develop a very sophisticated bullcrap meter that will save you from having your students pull the wool over your eyes. Check out the latest comic inspired by a real teacher story, and read my colleagues actual story below. Want to see all these cool comics and teacher stories showcased in a book? Support our project on Kickstarter!(http://tinyurl.com/180DayzTeacherBook )

One day I happened to strike up a conversation with an individual whom was a principal of a school facing a dire situation. Apparently the school was in danger of losing their guidance counselor, unless they were able to obtain a waiver allowing them to continue their employment. This unfortunate circumstance was brought to my attention due to the fact that during our discourse I had revealed my training as a guidance counselor. Immediately I was asked if I’d be willing to take the position at the school, under the assumption that the current counselor wouldn’t be able to obtain a waiver. “What if she gets a waiver though?” I inquired. “I’m still going to need a job.” I was reassured if such a rare circumstance would come to pass, they would find another position for me at the school, “just in case.”

As fate would have it, the current guidance counselor was (at the very last minute as these things seem to always transpire) indeed granted the waiver, securing their employment at the school. The principal soon contacted me and asked, “Can you teach science?” I thought about it for a few moments, weighing my options (secure employment versus, well, nothing) and decided I could. “How hard could teaching sixth graders be?” I said to myself. “After all, I do have a degree in molecular biology.”

The very next day I found myself standing in front of a group of 11-12 year olds looking at me, expecting that I knew much more than I actually did. It was my first day of my first year of teaching, and I had no idea what to do. I had never student taught before, nor had I attended any teacher trainee programs. I stood there, bewildered for few moments, unsure of what to do, trying to recollect any memories of what is suppose to happen in school from my own middle school days. “Attendance!” I thought. “Teachers always start with attendance. I can do that.” I recalled from my past that I always liked it when teachers allowed us to go by a nickname, so I told my new students that this was the time to let me know if they preferred to be called by a nickname rather than their actual name. I began the roll call.

“Vance?”
“Here.”

“Vanessa?”
“Here.”

“Tyrome?”
“I have another name,” he said.
“Ok. What is it?” I asked.
“Pendejo.”

I heard a few snickers from around the room. This awakened within me a slight flicker of recognition. Just a few weeks ago, one of my Spanish-speaking friends had started teaching me all the bad words he could think of in Spanish. “Was this one of those?” I wondered. I furrowing my brow and narrowed my eyes as I looked at Tyrome. He smiled at me, close lipped, daring me to say something. I stared at him a moment longer, but the fog in my head would not subside. I made a mental note to work more on my Spanish flashcards that evening, and finally replied to him, “I’m sure that’s not your nickname. I’m going to continue calling you Tyrome,” and moved on to the next kid in the class.

After surviving the rest of the day I returned home and immediately consulted my flashcards. Pendejo- Asshole. My mouth dropped. I went to the phone and called my mother and told her all about my first day of teaching and the near miss that occurred. “Can you imagine what would have happened if I didn’t know better and called him that?” I blurted into the phone, “I would have eventually called his mom one day and said, ‘Hi. I’m just calling about your son, Asshole.’” I continued over the laugher that came from the other end of the phone, “Mom, I don’t know if I can do this!”

It’s been over 10 years since that first fateful day and although I haven’t handled every potential catastrophe as well as that first one, I have learned a few valuable lessons through my years in education.
First, go with your instincts. If that little voice inside your head is telling you that something isn’t quite right, it probably isn’t.
Second, don’t let the kids see you sweat. Just roll with the punches and keep things going, no matter what come your way. Trust me, the kids can smell the fear on you!
Last but not least, Learn as many bad words in as many different languages as you can!

-Jennifer Nissley

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