Ode to the English Teacher.

First an annoying introduction; feel free to skip to the next heading:

I, unlike pretty much every other English grad student I know/have known, am not an English teacher. Not for high school, nor did I teach undergrads while earning my English MA. Chances are pretty certain, though, that when I go for my PhD or MFA I will have to endure the joys of teaching highschoolers or their very slightly more mature undergrad versions.

It’s not that I dislike the idea of teaching, I love the idea. But two, no, three things scare and frustrate the yellow paint off my pencils: One is that I’m afeared of the younger-than-25 crowd. And that ties directly into my second reason: I’m afeared about my own lack of classroom control ability. If you know me, you know that in person I’m more than a little bumbling, somewhat awkward, I stutter and mumble and have a very difficult time finding the words I want to say and especially stringing them together in coherent and understandable sentences. I’d (am gonna) get run right over the top of and lose all appearance of someone worth listening to, much less someone to give respect to. And they smell fear!

Thirdly, also tied into the previous two, is politics and mandated curriculum frustrates me. The politics of the public school system and college system would probably make me cringe and fill me with rebellious discord. I don’t like the idea of having to teach a class in the classical teacher-is-god/students-are-submissive-statues dynamic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Montessori fan where the student basically does whatever they want and learning is expected to find the student. But… you know, I’m getting away from my original intent for this post.

I have a great deal of respect for good teachers. I have nothing but ire and derision for bad teachers. Both are because teachers have a great deal of influence over students and can significantly impact their lives, for the better or worse. I had one teacher in jr. high who inspired me and made me want to learn and grow and I’ll never forget her. I had a teacher in high school who embarrassed and shamed me in front of others and I will hold a place of irrational hatred for him for all my years. Because of the great power teachers have over students during their formative years, I absolutely believe bad teachers should be gotten rid of with speed and prejudice, and good teachers should be made into wealthy celebrities. All the crap they have to put up with from bad students, parents, politicians, it’s amazing we have any good teachers in the system.

Now for the main event:

Author Pat Conroy recently wrote an editorial in response to some attempts at book banning at a high school. What he had to say about the value of teaching, English teachers in particular, and books, I simply can’t improve upon and agree with every word.

So, I urge you to click the following link and read this short essay. See if you can recall your English teachers and what life lessons you may have learned from them.