Nobody wants to become THAT teacher. The teacher that has given up on teaching, treating his or her classroom as a holding cell from 8 AM to 3PM, and a place for hungry and haggard inmates—teachers and students—to escape from at the first ring of the end-of-day bell.
Nobody wants to become THAT teacher. The teacher that photocopies his PowerPoints and throws these packages at students with the instructions: “Silent reading, then summarize.”
As a kid, I went to Poland every summer to visit my family. My cousins and I would drink plum compote on my grandma’s porch, throw corn nibs at chickens, harvest potatoes in the field and then fry them into the best French fries we’ve ever tasted, jump into the local ice-cold creek and play harmonicas.
Interspersed between these country pleasures and mischief was talk of school. Our parents—although or perhaps because they had been born in a small village in poverty—valued education more than anything. And so, it was natural that my cousins and I would talk of what we were reading in school. These conversations went something like this:
When I was in grade nine, I adored Mrs. Cohen. Something about the way she moved, with purpose, and how she dressed, with flair, made me want to be her. Although she was not a beauty, her pressed blouses, her beautiful jewelry, and her matching lipstick all oozed elegance. And in this respect Mrs. Cohen stood out. Of all the teachers I had as a student, she was the only one who dressed really beautifully. She was the only one to enter the classroom and announce, through the clothes she wore, “Pay attention! I am here! This is important!”
The pride Mrs. Cohen took in her appearance communicated to me that she cared about her job. Whether or not she took pride in being a teacher is uncertain, but it certainly made that impression on me. Even as a student, I intuitively knew that the way one dresses expresses not only how one feels about oneself, but also how one feels about one’s work.
Johnny comes home from school and complains his teacher plays favourites because his teacher praises only a few students and bashes the rest. Johnny hates when his teacher talks about him behind his back to other teachers and even students.
Maria complains to her parents over dinner that her teacher never has time for her and never answers questions.
Jason hates that his teacher is lazy—he sits and sips Starbucks and lectures behind his desk— while expecting only the best work from his students. “It’s hyporcritical!” Jason cries to his parents. Another teacher takes days to reply to Jason’s emails and takes weeks to mark his work, yet expects Jason’s homework to be handed in on time. “It’s just not right!” moans Jason.
Everybody and his pet rabbit wants to become a teacher. Around this time of year, at least three students tell me they want to become teachers. Later in the year, I often discover, more future teachers pop out of the woodwork.
With eyes that seem to look towards a utopia, these students tell me they want to teach. They tell me they want to share their love of Shakespeare. Biochemistry. The finer points of geography. And they want to inspire. They want to, through their gentle lovingness, spark the latent fire of intelligence and humanity in teenagers obsessed with spinners and dabs.