We’ve all seen them. They pop up in our social media feeds and lurk within our Slack channels at work. They’re everywhere. And, apparently we can’t get enough of them, because we keep making more and more of them daily (to the point that no one knows how many exist on the internet).
Of course, we’re referring to memes.
The term ‘meme’ was originally coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins back in 1976. According to Dawkins, a meme refers to how an idea spreads, replicates, and mutates within a culture like a virus, transmitting itself from brain to brain.
In our digital age, the term ‘meme’ has taken on a more specific meaning. When asked by The New York Times to define a meme, the well-known meme creator Saint Hoax explained that it’s “a piece of media that is repurposed to deliver a cultural, social or political expression, mainly through humor” that is insightful and in sync with the zeitgeist. In a process roughly resembling natural selection natural selection, the memes that resonate the most are shared far and wide on the internet, embedding themselves in the public’s consciousness, while mutating along the way (the image or video remains the same, but it is given new text and meaning).
Like many people, student teachers create and share funny school memes to convey insights about ‘the teacher life’ or commiserate about the stress and challenges of their job. They help student teachers feel connected to their peers going through the same experiences, validate their feelings, and help them feel that they’re not alone during the school year.
From the first day back to school to the last day of school and all the staff meetings in between, memes express the student teacher experience. Read on to learn about some of the best student teaching memes, as well as the cultural significance of memes.
Why are memes so popular and what is their significance? A recent study of people living in Puerto Rico during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that one way memes are used is as a means of collective coping to help process and manage the stress or anxiety of a challenging shared experience.
Collective coping involves:
Student teachers endure a lot of stress and anxiety as they undergo their initiatory training experience. Funny teacher memes can be a great way for student teachers to express and validate that ‘the struggle is real’, to feel connected to other new educators going through the same trials and tribulations, and know that what they are experiencing is the norm. In other words, student teacher memes support their collective coping process.
If you Google ‘student teaching memes,’ you’ll find a wealth of them. Here are some of the best teacher memes, organized by theme.
While the whole purpose of student teaching or a teacher residency is to prepare you for a successful teaching career, it can be a challenging and daunting experience learning how to stay on top of your lesson plans while managing a classroom full of kids.
One meme compares the first month of student teaching to Frodo Baggins’ hellish quest—during which he is repeatedly injured—to destroy the One Ring in Lord of the Rings.
Another meme likens the experience to fending off human devouring raptors in Jurassic World.
Look at any compilation of teacher memes, and you’ll notice that preparedness is a theme. It can be a steep learning curve for inexperienced teachers to stay on top of lesson planning and classroom management (and it feels like a miracle when everything clicks into place).
Other school memes offer new teachers hope by assuring them that they’ll be able to better handle all of their responsibilities once they gain more experience in the job.
Most teachers can relate to being overworked, but student teachers need to balance earning their master’s with learning how to teach in a classroom full of kids. And their teaching responsibilities don’t stop when the classroom bell rings at 3:00 pm. In addition to preparing lesson plans for the week, there’s a steady stream of work grading papers (particularly if you’re an English teacher), quizzes, and other assignments to grade (and provide constructive feedback on) and return to the students the next day.
One hard lesson that student teachers come to learn is that—despite all of their best efforts—some students resist learning and their teachers take the blame. Often, the underlying causes of these situations are complex and sometimes require resources that teachers don’t always have at their disposal. Yet, the frustration that the teachers are feeling is real. Instead of parents and/or administrators working with the teacher on strategies to help address the students’ resistance, they place all the burden of resolving the matter solely on them.
By the end of the student teachers’ first year of teaching, they may find all of their expectations scrambled and still be less than confident in their abilities. This is a common experience (hence, the popularity of the two following memes). Confidence in and satisfaction from your teaching will come in time.
As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed, “life is flux,” meaning that all things change. As student teachers gain more teaching experience, they’ll discover teaching strategies that work well and can be relied upon—that is, until they don’t.
Being an effective teacher requires life-long learning and professional development, and there will be moments in every teacher’s career when their students make the need for this crystal clear.
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