ONE Year Man

At the beginning of the school year, I mentioned to my classes that I watch “One Punch Man.” I even used his workout to introduce quadratics, although I probably won’t be repeating that lesson next year. Very few of my students knew what I was talking about, but the series did help me develop some rapport with students.

“One Punch Man” is about a hero named Saitama. Generally, stories about heroes are very similar: the hero is introduced, he/she faces a conflict, he/she gains power or knowledge to overcome the conflict, he/she finds another conflict, and so on. However, in “One Punch Man,” Saitama is already the strongest person when he is introduced. He is able to kill monsters with one punch (hence the title). Saitama continuously seeks out strong opponents to fight, but since he wins with one punch, he reaches a point where he is bored. After hearing about some of the benefits of being a hero, Saitama joins the Hero Association and meets other heroes. Some of these heroes are dedicated to saving lives and protecting the civilians from monsters, while others are there for money, fame, glory, or other personal reasons. Below is Saitama’s reason for being a hero:

After much introspection at the end of the school year, I realized that Saitama and I think alike.

Similar to Saitama, I’m a teacher for fun. I don’t think every second of teaching is fun, but I would be lying if I told you I had any days where every second was torture. Some of my kids might tell you otherwise (fourth and sixth period), but I had fun in every class I taught. Some of my favorite lessons were the ones where I didn’t know how long it would take for students to learn a concept. I usually had some follow-up activity or practice in case it went faster than I thought, but there were definitely days where I underestimated my students and had to adjust. I know some teachers have nightmares about under-planning, but true learning is unpredictable.

Most people think grading is a chore. Sometimes it is. However, when I’m grading my quizzes, I usually have a great time. My system of standards-based grading allows my students and me to see the progress made over the semester. They keep track of their grades on a checklist, which helps them keep track of what concepts they have mastered and what they need more help with. Putting those grades into the gradebook is therapeutic for me. I’m so proud of the improvement and progress that my students have made. Grading has become something I do for fun.

As a low-level hero, Saitama does not get paid well. One common complaint of teachers is that we aren’t paid enough. I don’t have the same financial responsibilities as the older teachers (kids, car payments, mortgages, etc.), but I think I was paid too much. I was on a learning curve, having to manage a classroom AND teach math. I failed. Multiple times. And still got paid. My annual income this year was higher than both my parents’ incomes combined. I don’t think I worked nearly as hard as they did. As a new teacher, I truly don’t believe that I deserved every paycheck I got.

In addition, the amount of personal growth I gained from teaching was invaluable. For example, I learned how to manage my time, make meaningful connections, and practice patience. Most importantly, I learned how to empathize. Many times throughout the year, I thought, “How do you not understand this?” It was (and is) so hard to try to teach something that came to me so easily. I’ve come to understand that it takes time, and that the rate of knowledge acquisition doesn’t say anything about the individual.

Combining fun and money, I have come to appreciate learning opportunities. I have heard many teachers say something similar to “I won’t work for free.” There’s nothing wrong with that mentality, but I think it limits opportunities for growth. It also affects the students we teach. Many students are unwilling to do work if they won’t get points for it, even if the work is beneficial for their learning. During a staff meeting, a teacher mentioned that it was a slap to the face to only get $120 for a day of collaboration with other teachers over the summer. I would have done it for free. First, it would make my work for next year easier. Second, it would be great to talk to other teachers and see how they want to teach. Despite my disagreement with the mentality of not working for free, I want to reiterate that I don’t think it’s wrong. Maybe it’s because I still have a lot of room for growth.

I have told my students that I would stop teaching once I didn’t think it was fun. That much is still true. For now, I’m having a lot of fun.

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