Thursday, August 13, 2009

The noble calling of Teacher

Lest I should offend anyone, I have to say that I have had many wonderful teachers over the years. I have had many who were role models, heroes, and icons. I have had many who gave me caring support and who nurtured me through difficult patches, both academically and personally.

And then there were the others. (Kindof like "the Others" on Lost, only less confusing.)

The unfortunate truth is that there are many people in the teaching profession who should not be teachers. There are some who just aren't smart enough, and unfortunately there are many who have no clue how to deal with OPC (Other People's Children). Because dealing with your own children is a completely separate matter from dealing with your own. And then there is another separate category of people who have no business being around children in any way.

I was at the school district yesterday signing paper work to begin my formal (certificate-in-hand) teaching career, and there were some others doing the same. Suffice it to say that if you can't figure out where to sign on a stack of paperwork (after you've been told specifically where to sign); or which date to use (yes, really), you should be grateful that someone like me isn't across the desk from you. Because in my estimation, such ineptitude would be grounds for revoking the offer of employment.

Here is a brief history of my favorite teachers, good and bad, over the course of my education.

New Orleans Louisiana:

The principal who pounded out the dent in my lunchbox with a paperweight on his desk. The dent was caused when the lunchbox was slammed into my face by a nice little boy who called me "Honkey White Trash" on my first day of first grade. I was told later by my mother that the principal insinuated racism on my part because when I told him who hit me I said "a big black boy." Apparently he was only big to me.

The first grade teacher who accused me of sassing during a spelling bee because I spelled
F-L-O-W, when the answer she was looking for was: "No, girl! The thing you standin' on!" Oh, how silly of me... F-L-O-O-R.

The gym teacher who carried a metal running baton everywhere he went and routinely smacked kids on the butt when they mouthed off. Or, really, just whenever he felt like it.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota:

The lunch lady who attempted to give me the Heimlich Maneuver when I was "choking" on cake crumbs. The fact that I was still inhaling and coughing had no effect on her brain whatsoever. I think she got some kind of award for saving my life, which tells you how bright the administration must have been. Nowadays I could have gotten a nice settlement and retired.

My Sixth Grade teacher, Mrs. Sonnenfield, who wrote me letters even after I moved away, and was always encouraging and kind.

The gym teacher, who asked me to stay after class on my last day and told me how much he would miss me and my family.

My brother's Sixth grade English teacher, who was always creepy in every possible way. I remember the time we had to go to the library to watch a school related film and I had to ride there in his personal vehicle. Ew.

The principal who was decapitated in a snowmobiling accident (did they really need to tell the kids *how* he died??), and his replacement, who I saw picking his nose on more than one occasion.


The ex-nun turned math teacher who believed that we would remember math solutions if she yelled them at us. "You take all the numbers from the first group, and all the numbers from the second group... THAT - YOU - HAVE - NOT - USED - AL-READY!"

The English teacher, who was also my football coach; who told me it was OK to hate my mom sometimes, and acknowledged my superior wide-receiver skills even though I was the only girl in the club.

The social studies teacher, who we all swore was really a man. She wore her fur coat year-round, on her shoulders, and it actually made her look like a bear. Which is probably why I almost lost bowel function when she yelled at me alone in the hallway for not turning in my notes on "The Importance of the Buffalo".

The science teacher who walked around the room trying to very subtly (and very creepily) ascertain if any of us had B.O. and then gave us a lecture on using deodorant and taking water-conservationist showers. He also told us a story about a friend of his who had a heart attack and died after jumping into a cold pool and warned us to go in knee-deep and splash water on ourselves first. He was the inventor of the dreaded "Red One". Meaning that if we did something really bad or really stupid, we would get a Red mark in the grade book and he would take one point off of our final grade. I remember one particularly bad day, he almost lost his temper but then just turned around dramatically and said "That's a Red One!"

The social studies teacher, who made us all fall asleep every class and insisted on telling us the same story about her friend on the Electoral College at least once a month.

The Algebra teacher who was always more interested in making snarky insulting comments to his students than he was in actually teaching the subject.

The chemistry teacher who never really answered any questions. Or at least, if he did, the answer was lost somewhere in a jumble of irrelevant (although impressively complicated) equations and scientific double-speak.

The English teacher who always talked through her teeth and made you feel as though she were trying to stop herself from losing it and biting someone.

There were, among those crazy personalities, some real people who treated me like a real person. Those are the teachers I admired and emulated. And in honor of the loud echo of rejoicing mothers that will be heard tomorrow morning around 9 am, those are the teachers who I hope will be my guide as I wade through bureaucracy, school politics and gang signs.

Teachers: God be with you.

Mothers: Enjoy the silence while it lasts. Just remember: we get to send them back to you at the end of the day.

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