Friday, April 22, 2011

T is for Teacher


Sometimes people ask me if I regret giving up teaching after a couple of months.

I normally answer them with an unequivocal 'no'

I admit I resisted the urge to erase a photograph of my airless, lightless dungeon classroom from my cell phone for more than a year. You could make out the chipped desks, just not the giant penis that G. had drawn on his desk in indelible marker that I would shield from the head of department by standing in front of it during classroom inspections.

Much has happened at the school since I left and my brief presence there is probably forgotten by most. The head of department and number of other English teachers have departed. And the coach - the only guy the most unruly students seemed to be genuinely frightened of, for fear of being dropped from the team - has departed under something of a cloud after he was arrested for sex with a 16-year-old.

Maybe every six months or so I will check the faces on the school website. Invariably the website will be out of date, with the exception of the coach whose face was removed as efficiently as Trotsky was airbrushed out of the snapshots of the Russian revolution.

I still shudder at certain names and faces on the website, remembering terse emails and requests for acts of petty bureaucracy.

When I thought of teaching I always thought of some of the inspiring orations at assemblies when I was a student. But when I became a teacher we never had assemblies with the exception of a special discipline event in which the principal spent the best part of an hour barking out all the different ways students could get in trouble including the dress code.

I am aware now I failed in my end of the bargain. When a female student turned up in a skirt that appeared to be too short, I failed to get out a tape measure to check her out and send her to the office. It just didn't seem right; when a guy showed up in what appeared to be a gang T-shirt I failed to get into a discussion about whether this really was a gang or maybe a rap star or maybe (more confusingly) a rap star who resorted to gang lyrics. I simply turned a blind eye, which is not the done thing in teaching.

I still see some of my students occasionally. I gave H. a half smile but she was too busy shoplifting at Wal-Mart to notice, I swear that was R. who served me at McDonald's last week. I considered saying: "If you had studied Lady Macbeth's Act I soliloquy And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty more you have made it to Arby's." I resisted the urge.

Recently I was doing a wine tasting when I saw the principal walking my way. Cue to don a funny hat and moustache and to do a swift 180 and to stare intently at bottles of Cupcake. The funny thing is I doubt if she would have remembered my anyhow.

But there are certain faces that bring back good memories too. I find myself concluding school would have been a lot more fun if not for the students. My teaching career was going swimmingly until the day the kids arrived.

So now I am left with a truck load of materials that I payed thousands of dollars for that I don't know what to do with. I tried to use a few in my occasional stints as a tutor but families tended to pay me not to show up.

My friend who lasted less than two weeks at a high school near here said had a bonfire with them the day they let her out.

But I can't bring myself to part with them so easily, thinking I might need them one day.

Just like I might need the miniature Portuguese sword that my father bought me back from a trip to the Algarve.

But at least I have a new found appreciation for teachers and I certainly don't begrudge them a couple of months vacation.

I am posting this early because I am going away to the mountains for the weekend, thus taking the closest thing to a blogging break one can take during the A-Z challenge.

16 comments:

  1. Although I suspect some of this was tongue-in-cheek, most was probably not. I wish that everyone decrying teachers as "overpaid glorified babysitters with undeserved benefits" could be made to endure a week as a substitute teacher.
    Have a great and hopefully weekend!

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  2. Shakespeare making the jump to Arby's cracked me up! Actually, all of it did. Whenever I think of being a teacher, thoughts like your post quickly convince me otherwise.

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  3. I hope you enjoy your trip to the mountains. My husband has worked in education for more than 20 years. (He's a school psychologist.) He could certainly tell some stories about what happens in schools today. Being a teacher is one of the toughest jobs around, in my opinion. It's not one I would want. I enjoyed your post. Thanks for the chuckles. :)

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  4. Well a teacher's is a thankless job...but here we still have uniforms right up to 12th grade and the majority turn truly devil only in college...but there are pranksters and disturbers galore...Enjoyed this though felt bad for you and some of the students.

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  5. Wonderful post for T - Teacher
    Nice to see you in the A2Z blogging challenge.

    I am following your blog.

    Please stop by my blog and if your like follow it.

    With warm welcome,

    http://mydaughtersdreams.blogspot.com

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  6. Much more entertaining than my T for teacher one - same problems, different angle. I'm envious of you having a break. Sue@JumpingAground (Alliteration & drabbles)
    Sue@traverselife(Workplace bullying)

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  7. Yay for mountains if you like them. I am the complete opposite of your sentiments; I loved students (not in the coach's way though, thank god) but I detested parents.

    I'd give an ovary to get back into a classroom.

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  8. How did I not know you were a teacher?!

    ...have fun in the mountains...

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  9. I have the up most respect for teachers, well apart for my techie teacher who would take great pleasure in whacking us over the knuckles with bits of two by two....

    Enjoy your trip.

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  10. Another excellent post, very entertaining. I hope you have a fantastic time during your trip to the mountains.

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  11. Yep. I don't know how I lasted 15 years - but in the 70s and 80s South AFrica was still a place where a teacher received respect from the pupils. Now!! Oh boy... I asked a teacher I know who has been one forever - the difference now she says, is that our black and coloured brethren believe they are 'owed' the marks - without doing the work. It must be quite awful to teach in a government school in the UK though. You have my sympathies. The best day of my life was when I left teaching and became a secretary!!!!!!!

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  12. thanks guys (eek am so far behind on comments) a week as a substitute teacher would be like a year of most professions, Li. Thanks Allison, glad to convince you not to do a noble thing, ha. for sure Daisy, I think it has got worse. Yay for uniforms Rekh. Thanks Gujjari; I'm a bit behind but will follow yours.

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  13. thanks Sue, the break helped - now I can see light. wow Mollie, that's impressive, tho. Yup Jennifer, only for a couple of months. That's the Scottish technique, Ryan. Thanks Frog, it was cool. Glad you liked it. I know fiftyodd, well actually I taught in the US.

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  14. Sounds like a very tough time. My mother-in-law was a school teacher and I used to hear many stories about it. It seemed her hands were always tied. Not a very good teaching/inspiring environment. My husband and I ran a place for youth, most who came in were middle school age and there is only so much you can take. I can't imagine being a teacher these days. I don't blame you one bit.

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  15. I know Heather - well I could have survived but wouldn't have enjoyed life much.

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  16. That is one scarey post. My daughter goes to a "good" elementary school. It's fight-free (relatively), doesn't have a drug element. However, as a parent, I'm not allowed to step foot on campus. The whole school is fenced in. And they wonder why parents don't get involved. My kids will spend 13 years in school wearing the same outfit every day -- khaki shorts and a collared polo shirt. Gag. I'm so sick of that. I'm sorry for you that you had such a bad experience at your chosen career.

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