1. The Back-up Plan. Teaching has so much in common with this J. Lo movie. J. Lo made a back-up plan; teachers make back-up plans. If J. Lo hadn’t gotten artificially inseminated, she never would have met the father of her future children. If I didn’t have a plan B when the projector failed, the students would have gone berserk like gremlins on a rampage. Oh, different movie. That’s also not a very fair depiction of my students — usually the gremlins are helpful and patient when that happens. In any case, we must always be flexible and doubly prepared because technology WILL fail, students WILL take the lesson in an unpredictable direction, principals WILL walk in when you’re about to play hangman.
2. The Filter. In real life, I love to lay down a well-placed four-letter word. I’m surprised and kind of impressed that I’ve never sworn in front of my students in the 9 years that I’ve been teaching. Like dubbed-over John McClane in Die Hard, I have to use terrible PG substitutes like Melon farmer! when I drop my papers on the floor. Admittedly, I’ve let fly a putain de merde once or twice, but my students don’t know that is the French equivalent of fucking shit.
3. Machine Hacks. The Gestetner company filed its first patent in 1879, which is when I think they built our copy machine. We call our department chairperson the Gestetner whisperer because she knows how to keep it happily duplicating for all of our paper-wasting needs. I’m not as skilled as she is, but am sure that Can change Gestetner master roll will look pretty good on my resume someday.
4. Deflection. If I had a nickel for every time a student asked me if I’m pregnant, I’d be able to buy some more donuts . . . which I’m starting to think might be part of the problem. Some students are very curious about personal matters. The line of questioning after I’ve been out sick is revealing of the kind of life they think I lead: “Did you party too much or were you out shopping?” Read the following conversation in which I deftly change the subject by responding to a personal question with a question.
Nosy Student: Is that a tramp stamp?
Me: Putain de merde, you weren’t supposed to see that.
NS: What is it?
Me: None of your business. But you should get a tattoo. Who’s your favorite cartoon character?
5. Teflon Armor. One of my favorite TV lines is from Boardwalk Empire when lunatic gangster Gyp Rosetti says “Nothin’s personal? What the fuck is life if it’s not personal?” before he sets the sheriff on fire. I agree with Gyp — I’m a person so I take things personally. But sometimes students don’t see teachers as people. Case in point: they get totally freaked out when they run into you at Target. I know that, so I let it roll off when they tell me they hate French or I look tired.
6. Temporal Manipulation. The experts say multitasking is a myth, so fine — we manipulate time, which allows me to simultaneously greet students, read a TMI absence note, raise an eyebrow at the R-rated conversation happening in the first two rows, adjust the blinds, collect a tardy slip, remember what I forgot to do last period, write the objective on the board, and respond to the question, “What are we doing today?” by pointing to said objective, all while daydreaming about Hannah Simone’s bangs.
7. Enhanced Memory. Teachers learn a lot of names in a short amount of time. I know who all of my students are by the end of the second or third day of school. However, there are limits to my powers; for example, I’m in trouble if the girl that wore glasses on Day 1 doesn’t wear them Day 2, or if the boy with the ponytail cuts it off. Identical twins – forget it. That’s why somebody invented pronouns.
8. Supersonic Hearing. This special power is not critical to the mission, but it’s pretty cool to see the expression on a student’s face when you let him know that you heard him from across the room. What else did she hear?
9. The Look. Everyone’s heard about ‘the look’. In my experience it’s not just one look but a whole smorgasbord of expressions. There’s ‘the eyes widening in disbelief look’ when you overhear one of the nice ‘A’ students using the c@n# word. There’s ‘the squinting stare’ when the student you’ve already asked to stop talking five times launches a new conversation. Then there’s my favorite, ‘the stone-faced you’re dead to me look’ when you realize that the student with their hand raised did not have an insightful and pertinent comment but just wanted to get the bathroom pass.
10. The Smile. It disarms, reassures, welcomes, encourages, sympathizes, appreciates, comforts. What’s more super than that?