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Bad teachers

December 16, 2009

My son is experiencing some of his first teacherly injustice. I know there are weak teachers and that part of school is learning to deal with them. But still, it is hard to witness one’s earnest, hard working twelve year old run into grown ups who say mean things, or who don’t praise projects that took hours to complete. I remember the bad teachers I had in 7th and 8th grade –Mrs. H.’s clogs and kneesocks, Mr. T.’s sweat stains under his armpits. These individuals were my social studies teachers and as I write this I realize that social studies is what I do for a living. Literary nonfiction about history and culture. How much more social studies is that? Mrs. H. gave my invented continent, Terra Bella, a C or something lower — clearly, I have blocked the memory of this grade. She felt the weather system was not right. Mr. T. said I did not write my term paper on St. Theresa of Siena by myself. Did my mother help me? But the worst thing was that I knew they did not like me. I could smell it on them — the dislike. They did not smile when I spoke. When I raised my hand, they ignored me. Teacherly dislike was a new experience for this veteran teacher’s pet and it never really happened again. My high school teachers redeemed school by loving me and loving their subjects. As for me, I have taught since I was twenty two years old and not once have I had a student who I disliked on this weird visceral level. I’ve struggled with some, failed to reach others, but never had the chemical dislike those teachers had for me. And as a few teachers seem to have for my son.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2009 10:16 pm

    Even as an adult I have the hardest time accepting that the person who has a problem with you (for no apparent reason) is a person who really has a problem with him-/herself. It isn’t just with teachers; it’s with job supervisors (I am the survivor of many a bad manager), and they have control of your professional life at times.

    I’m sorry your son needs to learn that lesson so early in life. I hope he’ll not lose any love of learning. Here’s the better teachers ahead!

  2. Heather (Greening) Hanes permalink
    December 17, 2009 2:12 pm

    I remember a teacher I had in third grade. I could go on and on about that year, but what really sticks out is what she told my parents in a parent-teacher-principal meeting: “These students are all below-average to average and that’s all they’ll ever be.” It’s sad to think that a *teacher* felt that way about the students in her care.

    I also remember a teacher we had in fourth and fifth grade that none of us liked, although in retrospect I find no flaw with her. I credit her with introducing me to one of my favorite childrens books of all time. Hey, maybe your son would appreciate it (I can’t believe he’s 12, wasn’t he like two when we were doing theater with you?)–it’s called A Book Dragon by Donn Kushner. It’s out of print. I recommend if you do find it online or at a used bookstore, go for the hardcover, it’s so much prettier than the paperback. 🙂

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