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I am a middle school teacher and have taught for almost nine years now, but I have a confession to make. Turning my back on my students terrifies that crap out of me. I manage to keep my cool when I go up to the board to work out problems, but the minute I turn my back, self-consciousness and paranoia take over. Why should I fear middle school students or be self-conscious? Well, here are a few reasons:
- My body’s too bootylicious. That seems almost like a compliment, but I hate the idea of pre-pubescent teenage boys staring at my butt. I had some girls come up to me at the beginning of the year and say, “Mrs. Z, you’ve got cake!” If you want to know what that means, you can either use context clues or use my favorite source for decoding teenage language: The Urban Dictionary. It didn’t help that they later told me that the boys kept staring at me when I turned my back. Now all I can think about when I turn my back is how many students are staring at my booty.
- Why are they laughing? You know how students laugh when you don’t have your eyes directly on them? This seems to happen whenever I turn to write something on the board. I go back to thinking about my first point but I also wonder what I’m missing while my back is turned. Call me a control freak, but I just want to know what’s going on at all times.
- Spit-balls and destruction. Although my classroom management is actually really good, ever now and then I find a spit ball or writing on the table that shouldn’t be read by the virgin eye. You seriously can’t turn your back for a second.
- Is anybody really listening?! Ever asked a question while writing on the board? You get one of two effects. Either 1) you hear crickets chirping or 2) you hear so many answers you can’t understand one word. I’ve taken to writing and then turning around to ask questions. It eliminates cricket chirping and random answers at least.
So, what’s a girl to do about being self-conscious about exposing her other side to her students? I can tell you that I have tried several positions while writing on the board. There’s the half-turned-while-writing position, but somehow there’s always half the class that gets your front and half that sees your back. Then there’s the writing with your non-dominant hand while facing the students position. The hand-writing is just not worth it. Finally, you can try writing with an awkward finger-grip on the marker while facing three-quarters of the way toward the students position. I find that when I really have to write on the board, this position works best for the least exposure.
Then, of course, you have alternatives to turning your back on students. You can use the document camera to write. This way, you’re always facing the students and you can monitor while ensuring they all pay attention. Having students write on the board for you also works. I have students go up to the board to work out the problems, drawing randomly from a set of popsicle sticks with their names on it, and then they may ask for a coach if they need help. This method not only engages students but prevents me from having to turn my back to my students. This self-conscious teacher uses these methods for maximum impact with minimum exposure. I still have no idea how to stop wondering how many boys are staring at my butt or what goes on when I do turn my back, but at least I can prevent situations where these things might happen.
Please tell me I’m not alone in my self-conscious fear of turning around in front of my students. Share your stories below.