A Copywriter’s Blog

In college, I knew a lot of people who wanted to be teachers. I had always considered teaching a difficult profession. But I had never before considered how nearly impossible it is to be a GOOD teacher. I remember one of my friends- a guy- telling me: “In the class I teach, I have an 11-yr old girl who lives with her single mother. She’s never met her father, and is an only child. I’m not just her teacher, I’m the only adult male role-model in her life.”

Let’s just let that one sink in a bit.

Why am I waxing philosophic about education? Last night I covered for my CD in his “digital stew” (ie-interactive concepting) class. That’s right. I held the power of life and death in my hands. Or at least the attendance sheet.

I was very conscious of a couple facts going in. First, I love to hear myself talk. So I had to make sure I knew when to shut up. Second, I think I’m funny. This belief is not universally shared (just ask my wife) so I had to watch the jokes. Third, I had to prove I belonged on the other side of the desk. See, 6 months ago, I graduated from MAS. I’m not so egotistical as to believe that 180 days “in the real world” had suddenly made me better than anyone in school. So I felt like I had to prove I was worthy of the desk I’d be temporarily sitting on (I hate chairs).

Truthfully, none of this probably mattered. I was a sub, for one thing. For another, I don’t think I can actually ruin these people’s lives in a single class. I would need at least two for that. But I always wanted to try teaching. And since I’m an egotist, I always felt the world could benefit from my wisdom, and that I’d be rather good at dispensing it.

I am definitely not a GOOD teacher. But if last night was any indication, I could be worse. Getting bored students to talk is damn near impossible. I was about to poke them with electric cattle prods just to prove they were still breathing. I looked like an idiot on three separate occasions (that I’m aware of) by mixing up words and failing to find a particular website I was citing as an example of something.

The good news is, I’m halfway decent about picking apart the good and the bad in work. Even more important, I’m halfway decent at expressing those parts verbally. It was great to sit there and be able to say “this was good, but here’s how you can make it better” and then watch the lights go on behind people’s eyes. Oh my g-d. They got it. I know they did, I just saw dawning comprehension. Holy shit, that one’s nodding! They’re nodding! They get it and agree with me!

Did I say that was great? That was awesome. I suspect this is what parents feel like.

There was one surprise to the whole evening. I’m not the asshole I thought I’d be. I imagined myself ripping into every student who did sub-par work, who didn’t care, who was going to graduate and go abso-fucking-lutely nowhere because- while they might have the talent- they lacked the drive. I thought I’d verbally shred those students because when I was in school, they were wasting my time. And I would pray for the day a teacher would call them out on it.

I saw a few of those students last night. And I could have shredded them. With my vocabulary and lung capacity, I could have made them cry and wet themselves. But you know what? Why waste the time? I gave them the attention their work deserved (30 seconds of criticism), I drew what lessons I could for the class from the examples they had, and I told them to sit down. Why should I go to the effort of working if they weren’t? Save my energy for the students who spent theirs.

Which was why, when I was finished with the class, I told them they could go early. But if anyone wanted to stick around, I’d go over whatever work they wanted to show me one-on-one. I took a 15 minute break, and returned to find 3 students waiting for me.

Three students that wanted to make an effort. Three students that were willing to put off the drinking and put in the energy. Three students who were under the (probably mistaken) impression I knew something worth sharing with them.

I’m really proud of that.

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