I sing along to the kids’ Disney CDs when driving. I’ve been told I have a nice voice, and I enjoy singing. I don’t have anything like Idina Menzel’s range, but I can do a fair Kristen Bell, and Mandy Moore is a snap.
My talent is actually more in mimickry than singing. I don’t have my own singing voice. I copy what I hear. Today, I sang these lines from Tangled:
And at last I see the light/and it’s like the fog has lifted./And at last I see the light/and it’s lo,e the sky is new./And it’s warm and real and bright/and the world has somehow shifted./All at once, everything is different/now that I see you.
It’s a love song, thus I naturally think of Odie, especially this time of year. Our actual physical romance began in September in Arizona, so the dry heat of late summer brings back those early days when the world seemed new because I was in love.
Zachary Levi’s harmony with Mandy Moore brought me a startling epiphany in addition to the sweet summer nostalgia of my infatuation with Odie.
I’m a teacher.
Bear with me. You know that. I know that. What’s revelatory about that? Why is Disney being dragged into this non-story?
I’ve never been comfortable in my teacher skin. It wasn’t my identity or my essence. It was my job. I’m a writer. Teaching is how I pay the bills and keep myself in Amazon deliveries. It was temporary while I got my writing career going. Trouble is, teaching high school English and composition doesn’t leave much time for anything else. But I do not choose the word teacher to define myself simply because I failed to find time for anything else.
In a recent therapy session with one of my many siblings (long story, for another time), I remarked, “If you let yourself get all worked up over movie and TV portrayals of [sibling’s neurological condition] then you’re in for a long life of hurt. Look at how teachers are portrayed! We’re either fucking our students or doing drugs or fixing student government elections!”
“But that’s just your job, not your identity. You’re not being erased when a top TV show misrepresents your job.”
At the time, I chalked up my ruffled feathers to the annoyance all people feel when millennials talk. A probable secondary cause was the way my sibling declared my feelings less significant than theirs (see previous comment about millennials talking).
You’re feeling that excitement all people feel when an English teacher makes a grammatical faux pas. Don’t get too excited. It’s intentional. Sibling demands to be a third person possessive pronoun (part of the long story for that other time).
Thirteen years after I did my best impersonation of a teacher in front of my first class, I realized that “teacher” is in fact my identity as much as writer, mother, redhead, sister, vegetarian, or humble genius. All at once I’m not mimicking or playing the part. I had two major epiphanies in July, one during summer school, the other at a teachers conference. What Oprah would call “Aha moments.”
Whatever you call them, the result is the same. The fog lifted. The world shifted. I saw the persona I’ve crafted and been inhabiting all these years and it no longer serves me. I needed Ms. Teacher-Persona for a long time and I’ll keep her on my substitute list in case I fall back into my falsetto habits out of comfort or laziness.
Or if I have to sing.
Does this mean you are leaving the profession?
No, it means I’m finally really joining it. That I’m not faking it anymore. I’m not doing my best impression of a teacher. I’m settling into my identity as a teacher and discarding my persona of “Teacher.”
After 13 years, I can’t really see this as a temporary gig anymore.
Interesting read. Do you think you still might write a book?
Yes. Many, I hope.
Hi Mrs. Odie!
I had to read through this a few times to “get it.” So, this is my take on what you wrote. You are a teacher, and it’s more than just a job, it’s part of who you are. It’s how you feel when you’re in front of your class and you realize that you have a talent for reaching your students, for helping them to have their own “aha moments.” It’s realizing that it’s not an 8 to 5 job, but a huge, time-consuming, part of who you are, just like motherhood, and many other things. I remember constantly thinking about creating new ways of teaching, worrying about certain students, fretting over comments that I made to students, and on and on… It’s exhausting and sometimes it’s easier to just play the part. Come to school on time, not two hours early, and leave when the kids do, go home and devote more time to family. After all, most people will say, it’s just a job.
I love when you have a new post! Missed you.
I love to hear this! You are a wonderful teacher! I’m so happy to hear that you are starting to recognize that too 🙂
Thank you, my dear. It means a lot.
It’s a stretch to say that I’m a “wonderful teacher,” but I am starting to recognize that I have a talent for it. If I can get a handle on the grading and assessment side of it, I’d be much improved. Bird by bird.
You identified one of my biggest fears: taking on an identity that isn’t authentic, isn’t “you.” You say you “never felt comfortable in your teacher skin,” and I get exactly what you mean, 100 percent. I have not actually entered the profession officially (I have yet to apply for a permanent position, and am just subbing for now), but have completed a Masters and secured certification to teach English at the high school level. I just can’t pull the trigger, though, and it’s because of what you so perfectly described in this post. Sure, I love language and literature and the art of effective communication — and I actually enjoy working with teenagers — but all of those truths don’t seem to add up to the expected “bigger truth” that I am meant to be a teacher. I am petrified that I will put one foot in that rabbit hole and, without warning, find myself so far down that by the time I make my way out, I’m nearing retirement and will have no idea how the life I was supposed to live somehow escaped me.
How do you feel about this new acceptance of “teacher?” Relieved? Content? Reinvigorated? Defeated? How has this fresh perspective affected your approach to the craft? Your approach to the rest of your life? I’d really appreciate some more insight. In keeping with your Disney theme, I’m worried I’m being a Peter Pan when it comes to my career — is it that teaching isn’t the right fit for me, or is it that I just don’t want to “grow up,” so to speak.
“How do you feel about this new acceptance of “teacher?” Relieved? Content? Reinvigorated? Defeated?”
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
I will answer the rest of your question as soon as possible. 90 first drafts to skim.
Sounds good! Thank you , and I look forward to it 😉
We can be a great many things 😉
That is true…..
So does being a “real” teacher (can’t help but think of Pinnochio) preclude any further blogging?
No, but it hasn’t been easy. Obviously. I’m coming back, I promise. There has been a lot going on.
Happy Holidays, Mrs. Odie. Hope all is well with you since we haven’t seen any new posts in awhile.