Thursday, July 22, 2010

Teachers: Scapegoats and Saviors I

If you can't DO, then TEACH.
If you can't teach, teach Gym.

What do you call a lazy, know-it-all with summers off?
A high school student.
What do you call a lazy, know-it-all with summers off with pay?
A high school teacher.

It's actually kind of hard to find good teacher jokes on the interwebs. I mean: hard in a “I found it on Google or Yahoo in .34 seconds” sort of way. I only looked for five minutes-- which is the equivalent of three weeks in pre-internet time-- and found really stupid, “family friendly” jokes. Gross. I think I hate “family friendly” anything. (Disclaimer to my parent readers out there: I know that I am a myopic bachelor who lives at the center of my own universe AND when/if I have children, my outlook on everything, including “family friendly” will change. Check. I got it.)

Anyway, I started thinking of writing this blog based on a simple supposition I have: teaching is the most controversial profession of our time. More than oil tycoons, prostitutes, priests, or bloggers, teachers bring out reactions in us. We all have opinions about them, many of us think most are frauds, we've all been screwed by them, and we know that a good one is priceless.

No one doesn't have an opinion about school teachers. Whether we are talking about summers off, salary, moral character, or competence, everyone feels free to judge teachers. A few of my favorites:

“Teachers only work nine months a year-- and they only work from 8-3.”
“People who become teachers do it because they get to push around little kids.”
“I had a teacher who was wasted/high all the time.”
“Teachers have no 'real life' experience.”
“My friend/cousin/coworker had a teacher who was sleeping with his students.”
“Teachers are people who couldn't make it in 'real world.'”

Fun! And these are just among the most common. My favorites are about how teachers are lazy fakers who mooch off the tax system, just to teach their own, narrow belief systems.

Don't get me wrong. I know that the other side of the coin is equally charged: the belief that teachers are magic-working angels. That a good teacher literally gives his life for his students, sacrificing a life outside school in order to grade papers, plan assignments and activities, and tend to his most needy students. These teachers are the Christs or Buddhas of our times. They have no families, are divorced or unmarried, often have nine cats or a couple of dogs, and float a few inches off the ground.

Anyway, so what's it all about? How did the 'fall back job' of the last few generations become the Lady Gaga of professions?

Check back soon and let's talk about it in Part Two!
And I'd love to hear your thoughts...


  1. I'm loving the blog, particularly this one - my friend in Georgia and I actually wrote a book together inspired by this very topic, and it's called "Just a Teacher". I'll have to send you a copy. On a side note, I played Peel for my eldest son the other day, and like me, he loved UPS girl; I miss our Abington days. Hope you are well! Keep writing - such fun and thought provoking.
    Kathy :)

  2. Amen to that. And..if you want to be embroiled in REAL educational controversy, become a school counselor! You know who we are...the ones who make coffee every morning, buff our nails and pop bon-bons all day. In many ways counselors (and janitors) are the unsung heroes of the school. There is a small segment of the American population who actually "get" what school counselors do in a school. I wish I had a dollar for the many occasions parents, teachers and administrators ask a counselor to "fix" a kid. If that were the case I'd be laying on the beach in Antigua buffing my nails and popping bon-bons! The issue at hand is "fixing"...what is the quick McDonald's fix for a societal problem that has taken years to carve it's way into the American culture? Any ideas out there? Counselors share insights and provide pro-active approaches to problem solving for parents, kids and school staff...there really is a "fix" for most issues but the problem lies within and looking within with some scrutiny is no longer the American way. I have personal experience with the phrase, "Kill the messenger." As for me, a school counselor, I have learned to emotionally detach from outside baggage, share my truths, plant seeds and wait....Patience is INDEED a virtue. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. It's magical.

  3. It's not that teachers are "lazy fakers who mooch off the tax system, just to teach their own, narrow belief systems" but it's the small fact, that since childhood, we students are brainwashed by what we see on T.V. and what we hear from older siblings, that being friends with/connecting with/liking teachers is social suicide. Out of fear of what our peers may think, or the fear of being called "teachers pet", we students distance ourselves from teahcers and counselors in hopes that we might we might slip under the radar of being social outcasts.
    And as far as the parents are concerned they want to see where their paychecks are going...if their child comes home with a bad grade or is complaining about not learning anything in class the parent immedidatly assumes that it's the teachers fault.
    I feel that the quick fix here is for the teachers to distance themselves from the students....I KNOW I KNOW but think of it this way if you constantly ask them if they're ok, or keep a close eye on them then the student will feel alienated, but by backing off it gives the student a chance to "breathe". We know that the counselors are there to help us when we need it, and we know that teachers weren't put on this earth to make our lives miserable with massive amounts of homework.
    Be patient.