I’m married to a teacher. He’s that old-fashioned kind of teacher that some students groan about– a teacher who lectures. Oh. I don’t mean lectures as in do this or do that. I mean lectures from a wealth of knowledge about topics like the Battle of Gettysburg or the finer points of the Constitution.
Constitutional history, in fact, is his area of expertise. You want to get him talking just bring up the Federalists or James Madison. Tim has a Masters in History from WSU but lately he’s been teaching Language Arts. He’s certified in that, too. I tease him that the only reason he got saddled with teaching Language Arts is because he’s married to me and the administration thinks that he ought to know how to write simply because he sleeps with me.
But the truth is Tim is just flat-out smart.
If there is something he wants to learn, he reads about it, exhaustively. People in trailer parks don’t use the sorts of words he knows. But then again, he doesn’t use the sorts of words they use in trailer parks or newsrooms.
He wears a suit coat and tie to class every single day, unless it’s game day, in which case he wears whatever game day shirt the coaches are supposed to wear. He has never worn a pair of jeans to class in some 28 years of teaching. He doesn’t even own a pair of jeans. Tim is perfectly suited for the world of boarding schools. He has an air of diplomacy and decorum, unless, the game is going badly, in which case he can take on the demeanor of Bobby Knight. A referee once gave him a technical for yelling when Tim had laryngitis so badly he couldn’t talk much less yell — He just looked like he wanted to scream.
Students who take his class often say it prepared them the most for college. Whiny parents often complain that Tim should be teaching college.
You may not know this but I have a teaching license, too. When Tim and I married the plan was that I was going to teach and he was going to seminary. The journalism/writing gig was never part of our plans.
I am proud to be married to a teacher and a man with as much integrity as my husband possess.
Sadly, not every teacher possesses the sort of academic or personal integrity he does. I have been at social events populated by teachers and come home shaking my head. After one such event, I told Tim that if I were the parents of young kids and had seen the display of behavior that I saw that night I would have jerked my kids out of school come Monday morning. I’m not going into details but suffice it to say, it was just sorry.
I was reminded of something my mama, the prison nurse, once said: “Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which one is the prisoner and which one is the prisoner guard. They both act the same.”
Seems like there’s a crop of teachers out there who don’t act much different than their worse students.
Did you see this oped in the New York Times: When Teachers talk out of school?
Apparently a New York City Math teacher, Christine Rubino, made callous remarks on her Facebook page following the drowning of a student during a field trip to the beach. She had nothing to do with that particular drowning but the next day on her Facebook page, she commented: “After today, I’m thinking the beach is a good trip for my class,” she wrote. “I hate their guts.”
If that wasn’t horrific enough, there was the first-grade teacher in New Jersey who posted on her FB page that she felt like a “warden” caring after “future criminals.”
Criminal is the right word for this sort of behavior.
Crying shame might be apropos as well.
But I’m not talking about the students, y’all.
If you have read my memoir (and if you haven’t, shame on you!) — After the Flag has been Folded — then you already know that the first thing I did after learning my father had been killed in Vietnam was to enlist Mama’s help in writing a letter to Mrs. Eye, my teacher at Oahu’s Helemano Elementary. Mrs. Eye wasn’t the first teacher who made an impact on my life and she wouldn’t be the last. I think sometimes about the letter she wrote back to me — and how difficult that must’ve been for her. How she must have struggled. For all I know she was a military wife herself. Perhaps her husband was in Vietnam, too.
Teachers & preachers & Sunday School helpers kept me out of jail.
I’m not saying I was an easy kid to teach. Mr. Smith, my chemistry teacher, once chucked an eraser at my head when I happened to tell him I didn’t believe in atoms.
“What does that mean?” he asked. “You don’t believe in atoms? How can you not believe in atoms??? They exist!!”
“Yeah, well some people choose not to believe in God even though he exists – I choose not to believe in atoms!” I retorted.
That’s when Mr. Smith chucked that eraser and I ducked. (Come to think of it, a lot of people have chucked things at my head. There’s still a can of refried beans in the wall at the house on 52nd Avenue in Columbus that Mama pitched at me. I ducked that time too.)
A teacher who throws things at a student now will likely face a lawsuit, so I’m not recommending it. I’m just saying I didn’t exactly possess a teachable spirit as a kid.
Still, I had teachers who believed in me. Teachers who saw past all my tough-girl demeanor to the broken-hearted mess that I was. Teachers who took the time to encourage and challenge. Teachers who saw something in me I couldn’t see in myself.
Listen, I know that teaching is so much harder than the general public realizes. Mostly because the general public makes it that way. Parents mess up their own families and then push their kids off on teachers with the mandate to “fix and educate ’em.” Far too many kids are being left to raise themselves. They come to school hungry for food, attention, nurturing, and all manner of instructions.
Even so, there is never, ever a time when it is okay for a teacher to say he or she hates their students.
Any teacher who trash-talks a student is better suited for a job as a prison guard.
Or maybe as a prisoner.
What about you? Who was the teacher you loved best? What did you best love about him or her?
Who was the worse teacher you or your child ever had? What were they lacking?