Monday, September 30, 2013

Mr. Feeny I am not

Growing up, one of the shows that I absolutely loved was “Boy Meets World”. I fell in love with the Matthews family and their friends, and especially Mr. Feeny. I looked forward to the pearls of wisdom he had, and found it hard to fathom that Feeny was a television character. What William Daniels brought to that character, and to the millions of people that watched, was the idea that you should never be afraid to try.

A month into the new school year, I am still settling in and trying to find my place. My seniors and I are valiantly struggling through Beowulf together, and the ideas and discussions they have presented are astounding. My freshmen and I are discovering the short story and talking about different cultures. Although I was apprehensive to make a discipline switch, teaching English so far has been an incredible amount of fun, and I’ve fallen easily into a good repertoire with a lot of students.

Still, I struggle. I am not George Feeny. I don’t have a thousand metaphors for a hundred things. I certainly cannot rock a tweed suit. Sometimes I stay up late at night because I second guess my ability to do something. Then I realize that Mr. Feeny is a character. I am not. I wake up every day and face 130 students. I have had to break up two fights since the school year began and both times I have analyzed them to death wondering what I could have done, when in reality, there was little I could have done to stop either of them.

I thought this would be easy, that I could walk into my second year and everything would go swimmingly well. Everything I thought I knew about classroom management has been turned on its ear by making the decision to work at an inner city school. What would Mr. Feeny do?

Probably something spectacular.


I flap my arms frantically, and call for help out in the hall. I hand a tissue out to wipe away tears and hold back my own until after school. I kick myself because I wanted to walk in with a confidence I have not yet developed. I tell my kids to take a deep breath and count to ten, as I inwardly count to twenty. Then I go to the faculty dining room and laugh with my coworkers and allow myself to breathe for thirty minutes.

I am learning. Sometimes I am miles ahead of my kids. Sometimes only a chapter. Sometimes, I  am learning by a few frantic page flips ahead of them. Lessons learned: teachers need to study the vocabulary lists just as much as the students do. Mr. Feeny probably knew all the vocabulary lists in every orange Sadlier book ever created. He probably knew exactly what to do when a student stomped out of class. I am not Mr. Feeny.

I am Ms. T.

And no, I am not perfect. But I am good at what I do, and I am getting better. Mr. Feeny probably never taught his students Navajo words, which I have. I never saw him stomp around the classroom pretending he was Grendel from Beowulf, which I have done (to the amusement of my kids). So every once in awhile, I am going to lock my keys in my room. I am going to lose a vocab quiz and maybe even my temper. I am going to have to keep counting to twenty and remembering to breathe. My speakers will not work on the day I want to show a video, and my students will continue to laugh at me as I publically battle the smartboard in my room.

And it is okay that I cannot rock the tweed outfits, or say something profound every day. What matters is that one day I will find my Corys and Topengas and Erics and Shawns and I can tell my kids:

“Believe in Yourselves. Dream. Try. Do Good.”