The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Thou Shalt Have a Calling to Teach

I became a teacher because I detested school — hated just about every minute of it, particularly from sixth grade on. By the time I was in eighth grade I had a chair of my own right outside the vice-principal’s office. I was a teacher’s nightmare — the one in the back of the class making noises and comments to make the kids around me laugh. I constantly asked the dreaded question, “Why do we have to learn this junk anyway?” My teachers would warn me not to get smart with them, which always struck me as a contradiction in terms. I would read every book on the suggested reading lists sent home by my English teachers, but I refused to admit that I’d read the books. I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of thinking they had taught me something. I hiked my skirts up, ratted my hair, and sported heavy black eyeliner and white lipstick. When the vice-principal pulled me into her office to wash my face, unroll my skirts, and comb out my hair, I’d march to the closest restroom and redo the whole thing. I was one of the girls who wouldn’t let you into the bathrooms at lunch because my friends and I were in there smoking.

In my junior year of high school, my counselor called me in to “discuss my future,” one of his minimum job requirements. This man had never taken any notice of me before other than to walk big circles around my chair outside the vice-principal’s door. He sat me in his office, winced as he perused my rather thick disciplinary file, sighed, and asked me what I planned to do when I grew up. I smiled and told him I was going to be a teacher. He laughed, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “You’ll never be a teacher.” I got up, leaned over his desk, and said, “You don’t know me,” and walked out of his office.

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The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching has been translated into Thai and Farsi (both shown here). E-mail me to inquire about other translations.