In this final installment of my favorite moments from the past school year, the focus moves exclusively to the teachers, which make these anecdotes more pathetic than any involving the kids. Kids are stupid. Always have been, always will be. I know that I was a flaming idiot. So were you. But when teachers do or say stupid things, it just seems worse, because for some reason many still mindlessly call teachers role models. Allow me to do my part at chipping away at this fallacy.
Those Who Can, Do. Those Without an Ounce of Drive, Determination or Motivation …
Our county purchased a new career-oriented software program for our students. The very first step is a 80-question career interest survey that generates a list of 20 careers for which each student might be suited. When my seniors took the survey in September, they were amazed at how accurately the program’s career choices matched their actual career goals.
For example, one kid had already told me several times that he wants to be a martial arts instructor. He took the survey. The words “martial arts” were not embedded in any question. Yet “Martial Arts Instructor” came up as his number one career choice. So, the shit is scarily accurate.
Which makes this part of my story that much more depressing. I decided to take the survey. I answered every question honestly. Many of them measure ambition, drive, people skills and self-confidence. I finished answering and clicked on the option that generates the list. My number one choice? Parking Enforcement.
That’s right. This 25-year teaching veteran with a stellar record and a career’s worth of excellent evaluations should, according to this dead-on accurate career prognosticator, instead be writing parking tickets in a small town near you. Yet I teach high school English. If you have kids in an American public school, enroll them in Chinese language classes now.
What Bothers Me Most Is that I Didn’t Protest
I was talking on the phone to a young teacher I used to work with when his three-year-old daughter started asking him who he was talking to. I heard him tell her, “This is my friend Ned. Ned is a pedophile. Can you say that? Ped. O. Phile. He’d like you. He’d like you a lot. Maybe some day he’ll come visit. Would you like that? I know he would.” After I finished laughing, I called him a sick fuck and we continued our conversation. And you thought teachers discussed lesson plans and teaching strategies.
As Ricky Roma So Aptly Put It in Glengarry Glen Ross, “It is not a world of men.”
I ran into a young teacher friend in the hall during the last week of September. He was in a good mood because he had finally worked up the nerve to broach a delicate topic with the principal. This guy had already paid for a week-long, mid-October vacation at some posh Puerto Rican resort, and he had to tell the boss that he’d be taking off an entire week of the school year. Keep in mind that this scene is taking place just four weeks after coming off our paid, ten-week summer vacation, during which he made the money for the Puerto Rico trip by teaching summer school instead of, oh … you know … taking a vacation to a posh Puerto Rican resort.
He was proud of himself for giving the principal a three-week warning about his absence, telling me, “That’s what I’d have done if this were a real job.” He was not saying this ironically, sarcastically or humorously. And what’s worse, I knew just what he meant.
He then walked away moaning, “Man, these five-day weeks are killing me.” Keep in mind that this is just four weeks after coming off … oh, you know.
Remember, Guidance Counselors Do Career Counseling with Your Child
A guidance counselor friend of mine at another school is about to begin her 26th year in education. We were emailing each other about how our burnt-out asses intend to spend the homestretch section of our careers. Did she aspire to a Central Office position? Perhaps she had dreams of being an administrator. Maybe a return to the classroom would re-energize her.
She instead put in for a transfer to the county’s alternative school, where we send all the kids who committed offenses that were too severe to keep them in a regular high school but not severe to merit expulsion or incarceration. Did she make this choice because she felt a calling to help some of our nation’s most at-risk children, yearning to make a difference in the lives of children teetering on the brink of heading down that irreversible path to a life behind bars? I’ll let you decide after reading the below excerpt from her email.
“I figure it will take me two to three years to figure out what the fuck they do there, and then another three years for them to realize I’m doing a shitty job, and by that time I’ll be able to retire and drive a Napa truck.”
That’s sad. What’s even sadder is that I am not seriously contemplating a transfer to the same school for the same reason.
This same teacher, who is now 50 years old, has started partying again, what with her daughter finally off at college. She ended up in a biker bar on Jello wrestling night. Volunteer wrestlers were solicited, especially those of the female sex. She volunteered and entered the ring. She was very drunk. She locked arms with a 20-something man who stopped and said, “Wait a minute. I know you. You were my Sunday school teacher!” In the ensuing match, she wrestled both her former student and her many demons.
Give Him a Break. He Teaches English, Not Geology. Or Common Sense.
Our school sits about 100 miles from the epicenter of last August’s east coast earthquake, so we got rattled pretty good. Many county schools needed minor repairs. It was pretty intense to feel and see the building shake for a few seconds.
In the moments after the quaking stopped, I found an email from a friend at another school. This school is 14 miles from my school. If getting dragged there, that’s a long way. In terms of an earthquake, it’s nothing.
What was this text of this email about an earthquake felt from Georgia to Canada? “OMG! We just has an earthquake over here!” OVER HERE! I’m no seismologist, but years of access to the Discovery Channel has taught me enough about earthquakes to know that their impact is not limited to a 500-yard radius.
I wanted to email him back and abuse him for his silly reaction, but I was not able to do that. We were sent home for the rest of the day as a precautionary measure. This was the very first day of school after having the entire summer off. And it became a half day. Because we are in public high school, and public education is not a world of men. Just whiney, dopey and very lucky bastards.
Ned Bitters teaches high school and dreams of one day seeing one of his former students on stage at a strip club. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.