Thursday, 07 March 2013
You had your favorites and those you hated. My favorite was Monsieur L—my French teacher in HS. He didn’t react negatively to my sense of disquietude, existential resignation, or misplaced cynicism (I don’t care what anyone says, but a fourteen-year-old hasn’t earned the right to be so cynical and tired). He tried to draw out the budding creative by taking my writing seriously (en Francais bien sur). I may have told this little story before: I was somehow compelled to lie to him about what my dad did for a living (I was not ashamed of him, I just wanted to fuck with Mr.L in the usual fashion I did with all the teachers). He’s a concert pianist, I said. To which he replied, smiling, exposing yellow teeth from eons of nicotine use, bug eyed, “I’m not surprised. He has you for a daughter.” At the time, I couldn’t fully comprehend the implication of his compliment. I do now, but back then, I thought he was weird, for one, and that he somehow paid me some sort of compliment. vaguely.
I was just thinking that for those teachers sincerely concerned with educating young minds, seeing someone with potential must be zee cherry on top.
To have such a teacher’s influence remain, albeit like a faded photograph, is invaluable. He was the first one to see beyond the anger, the bored physiognomy, the slumped-over posture, the awkward answers to questions raised in class. It was a time when compliments were few and far between.
The first runner-up would be Mr. B, my advanced chem. teacher in my junior year. He noticed that when he talked about the mole concept and its application to stoichmiometry and molarity and equilibrium or some such thing, I would tune out. He took me aside (and not address me in front of the class) and asked if everything was okay. I said, no, not everything is okay. But what do you care? I do okay on tests—no problem there. He showed interest in my well-being and I shut him out. From then on, in between his tempus mentoses and nerdy chemistry jokes, he would smile at me as if reassuring me that things couldn't be so bad. He was not some pervert, I could tell. He was just watching out for me. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it was because he saw that I also had some talent for painting. Maybe he saw that Avogadro’s Law or writing and balancing chemical equations did not interest me in the least, and that I was in his class because of the academic snowball effect in our educational system. You took A class, now you have to take B class regardless of its value to you in the future for. It’s called an education. Fine.
Then there was Mrs. C in middle school. She falls under the shit teachers category. She was prim and proper. Always came to class looking like she came out of the fifties. She hated sweet little me and tried to humiliate me every chance she had. I was not paranoid. She did this consistently, almost every day, for the whole fucking year. I don’t know what I did, but I got under her skin for some reason. She is a perfect example of a teacher whose ego overrides her job to be an effective educator. She was old-school and didn’t have the imagination and capacity to look beyond anything. She saw my questions in class as some sort of plot to undermine her authority when I was actually curious about some of the linguistic rules. I may have been a bit obnoxious. It's entirely possible. Anyway, teaching Spanish is not rocket science, for goodness sake. And if you are rattled by questions posed to you by some irreverent knucklehead, then you have no business teaching. And this is really why I wrote this blog. There are teachers who destroy rather than build up children's confidence. There are teachers who want to be unapproachable. It sucks in that they can be a part of children's educational reality. There is always a Mrs. C.
College was an entirely different, liberating experience. I fit in somehow. My irreverence was seen as something positive, like I was witty or something and, in some sense, a sign that I actually wanted to learn.
Anyway, you've all had them: bad or excellent or comme ci comme ca. Just don't allow the bad ones to ruin learning a particular subject. I never took Spanish again because of that awful bitch. And I love the sound of Spanish. I wanted to learn it.
Ever had a Mrs. C? What about the ones who made a big difference? Guided you, nurtured your talent?