Year One - I came in after a teacher had left, so already it was a given that I was appreciated. In addition, many students were Juniors and Seniors and our humor stayed at the same level. They were accustomed to 'the other' math teachers who're typically older and old school. Mr. G was refreshing.Year Two - My first batch I taught from start to finish, and the establishing coolness wasn't as easy without the assist. The coolness was there, don't take me wrong. I'm the coolest teacher out there. But, just... not THAT cool.Year Three - My first full load of freshmen, where humor is somewhere completely different. Some even consider freshmen a completely different race from human being. The defenses are high when you're in your first year of high school. The adjustment was a difficult one. Again, still cool... but not THAT cool.
One goal I have for the year is to regain the cool. I have a new full load of freshmen, and I know the cool is somewhere in me. And while there is no objective measure nor "value-added system" to what 'teacher coolness' is necessarily, I feel things are so far so good. I attribute this change partially to the fact that I'm one year conditioned to freshmen personality and energy, but added to this I share:
For starters, I maintain the randomisity I share with class on a daily basis, one completely non-math fact to buy their attention. I've added music to open class. I make sure I do not go a day without standing at the door and to preserve those one-on-one interactions with each and every student.
More importantly, I've allowed myself to be more open and vulnerable. Rather than keeping my life completely mysterious, I answer the personal questions (to an extent, of course). Rather than responding with a sarcastic "Mister" when they ask my first name, I tell it to them straight. Rather than keeping my 'teacher' facebook restricted to Mr. G alumni, I'm letting them add me if they find me (which is a fun post all in itself).
But, most importantly, I let them direct my life in ways I haven't allowed before. In the past, I wanted a wall to separate my teacher self and my non-teacher self but what I've realized is the two can co-exist and intermingle quite beautifully without some great divide. When a kid asks me to do something that may require extra work an effort that might not even contribute to his or her math success, I say 'hell, let's do it.'
So, when A.X. recommends that I read a Manga book that she absolutely LOVES, I read it (my very first Manga book, by the way - 'Death Note' if you're curious). When the kids say they want to see me decked out for 80's day, I show up in chucks, knee highs, members only, aviators, and a headband. When B.L. asks if I could bring him a tennis ball b/c he lost his, I provide. When a N.P. finds out I'm an avid fan of chess and challenges me to a match, we schedule a weekly morning meeting and play. When an advisory class is hungry for some dodge ball, we set up a game and do it. (Readily evading the dodgeballs flying at my face). And when J.S. challenges me to a one-mile race afterschool on the track in front of HELLA PEOPLE, I race him. (And WIN... yes, I am simultaneously brushing my shoulders off as I type this parenthetical).
Anyway, the result of these added components to my teacher life is the most fun I've ever had in the classroom. Why not let my students drive what goes on in my life the way I drives theirs and the way the classroom drives us?
PS. It's spirit week this week and I'm excited.