This is what I imagine it’s like to be a teacher in America:
It’s like trying to bring God to the apes. You don’t descend into their habitat but rather, ship the apes by bus to you. There, you try illuminate the apes — or chimps, or orangutans — and deliver wisdom unto them, but let’s be honest: apes don’t give a grunting squat about God or any illumination you aim to give them. They’re apes, for Chrissakes. They just want to fling shit and pick ticks and eat bananas and ball each other. Because they are apes. And so day in, day out, you try your hardest to “get through” to these ooking primates, and every once in a while you manage to connect with one and you think, “That one, that one may just evolve into higher creature.” But for the most of the time, you’re just scrubbing ape poop out of your hair and trying to remember exactly which one of them taught the others to play with matches. After a few years of this, you’re either a hardened cynic, a battle-torn skeptic, a who-gives-a-shit-laissez-faire pacifist or a twitching pee-stained educator with ape-caused Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I say this having been one of those apes.
I was a pretty good student and, frankly, not that bad of a kid. Even still, school kinda sucked. I didn’t want to be there. Few of my fellow students wanted to be there. Already that’s a barrier for the teacher: even your best and brightest students would rather be anywhere else in the world.
So, I’m sympathetic to teachers. I do not doubt that it can be rewarding, and I also know that some teachers in this area get paid pretty well (too well, if you read and believe all the angry “We Hate Teachers” signs), but even still, anybody who would paint for you a picture that teaching is some kind of joyous cakewalk has never washed chimpanzee vomit out of their knickers.
Basic gist: teacher writes a mostly anonymous blog about all kinds of stuff and sometimes writes about educational woes — she calls out (not by name) whiny, lazy kids and their buddy-buddy parents. Someone (a parent?) finds the blog, casts it far and wide, brings it to the attention of the school board and principal, and wham, the teacher is escorted from the building and may end up getting fired.
Do I think her blog was the best idea? No, I guess not.
Do I think she’s wrong? Ehhh. No, no, I do not.
I am not a teacher. I do not spend day in and day out with kids. But this teacher? She teaches at my old high school. I remember what we shitheads were like back then, and I wouldn’t blame the teachers for getting all frowny-faced about us. And for fear of sounding like an old man (kids today with their video music and their cocaine hoverboards!), I think kids today are a lot worse than when I was a brash young snotwipe.
I suspect that kids seem worse today because my generation of aforementioned brash young snotwipes are having kids, and given how most generations are watered-down piss-poor facsimiles of their elders, well, this isn’t good news. I go out in public too often and where once I saw parents being parents to their children — because they are children — I now see parents locked in weak-kneed negotiations. We were in Hawaii and we were at this lighthouse slash bird sanctuary and these parents come up with their poor little squalling toddler who is throwing an epic mega ultra shit-fit… and what was their response?
It was not:
a) To soothe the child by making parental soothing noises — “Shhh. Shhh.”
b) To be firm and disciplined — “Stop crying or I give your sister to the gulls.”
It was, instead:
c) To say, “If you don’t stop crying, we’re going to have to begin a timeout situation.”
What the fuck does that mean? I’m sorry, are you trying to use adult logic and terminology to calm a blubbering toddler? Has that worked in any universe? Are you negotiating? What the crap is “we’re going to have to begin a timeout situation?” Hell, that wouldn’t even calm me down, and I’m in my mid-30s. You tell me that, I will kick you into the ocean.
The toddler didn’t stop because the toddler had no idea what Daddy was even saying. No, the end result was that the toddler kept crying and the parents didn’t even make good on their vaguely-worded, generic threat — they just brought the kid to the lighthouse, tantrum-be-damned. Meaningless threat. Zero consequence.
It feels like some parents never want to admit their kids are, y’know, kids. Imperfect in many ways. They’d much rather spend time defending them (and by proxy, their parenting skills) rather than by correcting problems. When something went goofy when I was a kid, my parents did not rush to my defense. They wanted to know what the hell I did wrong. You know why they did that? Because I probably did some stupid shit. I did stuff wrong all the time! Because I was a kid!
A dumb, chimpy, hormone-addled lackwit.
I’m not saying that parents should be backhanding their kids down the cellar steps or that the only answer is tough love and no compassion — I think parents should stand by their children when it is called for and I think parents should be sympathetic to the fact that being a kid kind of blows. But that doesn’t mean defending bad behavior. That doesn’t mean kissing their ass. That doesn’t mean doing their work for them, or excusing their worst instincts or training them to be entitled little jerk-mongers. (Yes, a “jerk-monger” is one who sells jerks at the market. Shut up, you.)
Ten, twenty years ago, a teacher who called out her students like that would’ve stirred the same shit-bloom of shame, except some of that shame would be reserved for the kids who caused it. Parents would go to their kids and ask, “Are you giving Mrs. So-And-So a hard time? Are you? Is it you she’s talking about? Goddamnit, don’t make me slap the homework of your mouth.” Nowadays, parents see this and they immediately rush to bury the teacher because — let’s be honest — she’s telling the truth and they can’t bear the sting of reality carping on about their bullshit parenting.
Do I think the teacher’s attitude is totally awesome? No, probably not. But is it dishonest? Sure ain’t. And in teaching, and in raising our kids — and actually, in practically all levels of American discourse — the one thing we could use more of in our mouths is a fist full of honest medicine.
Then again, what the hell do I know? I am neither parent (yet) nor teacher.
Curious to hear your thoughts on this whole mess. Chime in if you so feel like it.
And no, I’m not talking about all parents, and I’m probably not talking about you, so don’t get offended. I mean, okay, you’re allowed to get offended, I wouldn’t be mad at you for that, but seriously: not worth it.