Why do they call me Teacher David?
Every class, every student, every parent, and every teacher I work with knows me as Teacher David. Even at the dual immersion school where I work, the kids call me Maestro David which translates to…? You guessed it, Teacher David.
I don’t insist on being called Teacher David. I mean, I had been working in education for four years and no one ever called me Teacher David.
The first time someone called me Teacher David was when I began working in an early intervention classroom for young children with special needs. I was young and inexperienced and one of the teachers called me Teacher David. I don’t know why she was compelled to call me that, but I think she did it so that the kids would think of me as a real teacher instead of as another really really big kid.
I mean, I do have a tendency to behave as just another really really big kid. I like to crack jokes that only a three year old would laugh at and do really silly voices (give me a set of blocks and some dinosaurs and I will perform for you a show). I can see it too when I’m goofing around with the kids and I have to immediately stop to lay down the law about not standing on chairs or chewing on play dough. When I turn into law enforcement mode, the kid is startled. The surprise is just momentary as they process the fact that I am indeed a teacher and not just a friend.
I started playing the guitar around that time. I learned all the basic songs like Old McDonald or Wheels on the Bus. The teacher I worked with wanted me to play and sing these songs with her class. Then the other teachers wanted me to do music with their classes. The teachers told their kids that it was time to do music with Teacher David.
Two times a week I did music with the kids. The kids started calling me Teacher David too. Then their parents started to call me Teacher David.
The name invokes a certain persona within me. It is a persona that the kids connect with in a way that makes the class more enjoyable. It is a persona that uses lots of energy, makes lots of smiles, and speaks very loudly. It’s a persona that the kids really seem to enjoy. It is a persona that can be silly and in-charge at the same time.
When I moved to Portland and looked for employment, I had to make a choice. People will know my name to be whatever I choose my name to be. Would I take Teacher David with me? Do I want to be called Teacher David? Or do I want to be called something new like Mr. Oh? Or simply David? Or maybe even Soobin (my Korean name)? Being in a new place affords these types of opportunities.
It was during my interview at West Hills when they asked me if I would teach a class as part of the interview. I didn’t have to think about who I would be. I just became who I naturally wanted to be in front of 15 curious 3 year olds.
I became Teacher David.