Tuesday, March 25, 2008

If I were. . .

Let me begin by stating that I have great students. They are intelligent, lazy at times, but intelligent young men and women. I am in awe when I think upon the potential that each of my students possesses. It is sad sometimes to see them squander the opportunities that they have to learn and grow, but it is also exhilarating when I have the privilege to see them apply themselves and excel. But this is not the subject of this evening's blog. No, tonight I shall write about all that I would be if I were what some of my students perceive me to be.
So I decided to buy school lunch today, and on my way over to the lunch line I came across one of my students speaking with one of the Assistant Principals. I stopped and spoke with the two for a short time, and the AP mentioned how the student had just informed her how "smart" I am. The reasoning, that I had memorized all of the dates for the births and deaths of the major poets of the British Romantic Period. I naturally smiled, not from pride in my achievement, but in humor that my student unjustifiably thought so highly of me. I had to correct the perception immediately. No, I am not so smart--I do not have the dates of their births and deaths memorized. . . I simply know who was the oldest and which died the youngest and was able to place the order of births and deaths chronologically (it is rather fascinating to think upon the five major Romantic poets and how the order of their births is reversed for the order of their deaths). Anyhow, this led me to reflect upon another comment made from another student in the same course.
About a month ago I walked into one of my classes and a student asked, "Mr. Hall, how many languages do you speak?"
I replied, "One."
"What? You told us that you spoke seven languages!"
"I did? I don't recall ever claiming to speak seven languages. . ."
The fact of the matter is that at the beginning of the school year I had mentioned that languages have families, and that English is a Germanic language, and that it would be easier for a native English speaker to learn German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Dutch, or Flemish than it would be to learn Spanish, French, Italian, etc. because those languages have more things in common. I'm guessing that because I had made mention that seven different languages are related to English that some students, half-hearing (I'm sure that you are all surprised that many of my students have selected hearing!), assumed that I spoke all seven languages.
I tell you, if I were what my students sometimes believe me to be, I would be an interesting character. These two examples would make me brilliant, but there are more without such a positive light.
For example, in one class I had jokingly said that I spend my weekends going to clubs wearing a fanny pack--that is what I use to store my business cards with my phone number that I give out to the ladies! Of course, the students who were paying attention understood that I was not being serious. Nevertheless, there are some students who whole-heartedly believe that I think it is cool to, first of all, own a fanny-pack, and, second of all, go around giving out cards to ladies and collecting women's phone numbers in it. It has since become a running joke with students in that class. Come Fridays I often have students ask, "Are you going to bust out that fanny-pack tonight?"
And of course I reply, "You had better believe it! Watch out ladies--Mr. Hall is on the prowl with that irresistible fanny-pack!" Ah, if only I were so "cool" as some of my students think me to be!
Needless to say, I have countless experiences where students have a misconception as to who I am. Some are humorous while others are simply jaded, but it makes me smile either way with the "creative" mindset that leads to such beliefs.
There are also times that students come to a true understanding of what I am. . . this can also be humorous. It seems inevitable that at some point in the year my students discover that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or more commonly known as "Mormon"). This is usually the result of a student asking about whether or not I smoke or drink (students have often mistaken my wallet in my front pocket or a pack of gum in my shirt pocket for being a pack of cigarettes and I show them what it is and explain that I don't smoke or drink). They never believe me when I say that I don't partake of either (smoking they believe but they cannot seem to grasp that there are people who don't drink) and this is usually how they learn that I am "Mormon" because "Mormons" aren't supposed to drink or smoke (this is also humorous as my students always associate what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka LDS, refer to as the word of wisdom as being "can't" do it--I explain that there are members of my church who choose to smoke and drink, but in so doing they are choosing not to follow the teachings of the church--I, on the other hand, wish to be in good standing with the church and practice what I believe, so I choose not to partake of such things). The humorous part is when a student hears from a friend concerning what LDS call "The Law of Chastity," namely, that we are not to have sexual relations with anyone except the husband or wife to whom we are lawfully wedded. It generally takes students a while to put two and two together, but before long I will get a statement/question such as: "Mormons don't have sex until their married, right?" followed by a question like, "You're not married, right?" Which, once the connection is made is followed by, "You are how old Mr. Hall?" and then is followed with a lot of giggles! Ah, high school! I am glad that many of my students have finally learned what it means to infer and how to use deductive reasoning!
If I were. . . and what I am. . . each day becomes an adventure in my profession. Who knows, tomorrow I may be known for my intimate friendship with Dr. Frankenstein or my immaculate knowledge of the Chinese canon of poetry in its original language. . . all I can say is "that is FANTASTIC!" (that is a story for another day).


Rachel said...

I really hope you do have a fanny pack.

And I'm going to join in with your students and say you are pretty smart for knowing all those dates. 1066. That's all I remember from years and years of English classes. And half the time I can't remember why it's important.

Nicole Bullock said...

Brett-you've got it going on. It's a good thing you don't wear that sexy fanny pack when I'm around you...I might want one of your business cards! Although I'm not a teacher, I've had similar Word of Wisdom/Law of Chastity talks with lots of coworkers and friends over the years. Last week even, with some often-drunk, promiscuous boys from Dublin that I spent time in Boston with. They gave me the giggle...

Andrea said...

Brett, I was totally laughing at your story because it reminded me of a similar conversation I had with the student workers in my office. They tease me big time, especially when they find out that my exciting Friday nights involve me with a frozen yogurt and a rented movie.

Liz W. said...

Brett, the fanny pack thing is hilarious!

You should get one, and then on a Monday, let it slip out of a bag and just tell the kids you had a late night passing out cards to all the ladies. You know, cause you need to get married to change your chasity status...

Ana said...

hello there :)

it was funny to read this post. I dont know you and your students but it seems you do have a nice relation with them, not that classic, boring, stereotypical teacher-student relation. Being a teacher myself I could relate to pretty much of what you have said, esp the students' selective hearing, being lazy or their interesting ability to come up with conclusions...though those can be funny, as long as they dont deviate from nice manners and end up being rude or offensive.
It is nice that they think you are smart even though you would like them to think that based on other reasons but your ability to memorize all those dates.
Anyway, it was really interesting to read your post. I like reading about teachers' experiences in class and how they deal with it and all...they have a great contribution to my development as a teacher.
oh, and btw, congrats for remembering all those dates...I myself am simply TERRIBLE at that issue :S


Ms. Liz said...

oh man - the joys of connection. Your kids sound adorable, and at least you know that they're listening, some of the time at least.

I saw this patent leather fanny pack at some doo-hicky mall shop the other day and collapsed in giggles myself. Rock on maestro - Rock on

Nicole Bullock said...

I saw a lavender sparkle fanny pack at the thrift store for $.49, but decided I was too cheap to ship it to you.

Heather said...

I've always though it interesting how people perceive me, and where their seemingly off the wall ideas come from. Thanks for a little more insight on where they come from, and a wonderful image to keep filed away in my head, and pull out when ever I need to smile. ;-)