05 November 2016

Part Two of Teachers You Might Recognize


As the title suggests this is the second part of my look at public school teachers. It is my guess you will recognize some or a little bit about one or more of them.

The cynical yet perspicacious history teacher felt like there was nothing new under the sun. In 25 years of teaching he’d seen every kind of kid you could imagine, dealt with every manner of parent and suffered through a seemingly endless parade of administrators. Worst he’d had to hear about every new teaching methodology and behavior modification program that had come down the pike. None of them impressed or interested him any more. He gave a geography quiz at the beginning of the school year and he could tell based on that who his A students were going to be and who is F students were going to be. Very little he did was going to change the courses of student lives once they entered his classroom. The cynical yet perspicacious history teacher was nonetheless an excellent teacher who gave spell binding lectures that could interest even the most disaffected student. He was highly regarded by colleagues and had served several terms as union rep and always kept abreast of union matters. He lived with his second wife and a step son, his teenaged daughter visited on weekends. He read history books compulsively and was fanatical in keeping up with current events. He preferred jazz and documentaries. The cynical yet perspicacious history teacher loves pizza.

The flamboyant drama teacher was gay and didn’t care who knew it. He even referenced his sexuality to students but only in relation to an already introduced topic or discussion. He’d been out of the closet since he was 13 and spent much of his young life on the battle lines fighting for acceptance of and equal rights for the LGBT community. This was complicated for him by the fact that he was African American. He had a been there done that feeling about activism now and his primary focuses were on his job and the adopted daughter he was raising with his husband. The latter was a prominent attorney and their house was a veritable mansion in the chic part of town. The flamboyant drama teacher was loved by most of his students because he gave everything to the class and cared so deeply for his students. Plus he had a knack for drawing out the best in his students and the plays they put on were so good that it wasn’t just members of the school community who attended them. Over the years a few students had slung homophobic taunts at him but never a second time. His responses were quick and direct and he brought to bear the full force of the school’s disciplinary policy on them. Many students had come out to him and even straight students trusted him implicitly. The flamboyant drama teacher loves Korean barbecue.

The perpetually befuddled math teacher was in his second year of teaching and seemed unlikely to earn tenure. He was an earnest young man who loved math and cared about his students and employed everything he’d ever learned at an in-service, workshop, conference, staff development or observation. Yet he got little response from his students, excepting those who were disruptive and there were many of them. It was likely his dour demeanor and plain unmodulated voice that put students to sleep -- literally in some cases. The perpetually befuddled math teacher was not what one would call a people person. He was uncomfortable talking both to groups and individuals and it showed. He never seemed to understand what was going on in this new world of teaching. His student’s and their lack of interest were perplexing, he did not understand the jokes or banter among other teachers and failed to comprehend the jargon and acronyms that were so much a part of a public school system. He sensed that this was not the career for him and that he might as well go into academia as so many had advised him to. His fiancĂ© was in med school and they shared a small house that she had inherited from grandparents. The perpetually befuddled math teacher loves grilled cheese sandwiches.

The officious computer science teacher sported a crew cut and sartorial style that was of a fashion in the 1950s. There were many jokes about him being a time traveler from the Eisenhower years. He was as stern and conservative as his haircut. He gave students icy stares from the first day onwards and laid down computer lab rules in a manner more befitting a drill sergeant. The classroom was always immaculate because anyone who left so much as a crumb or paper clip on a desk or floor felt his wrath. The officious computer science teacher seemed not to derive an iota of pleasure out of his profession. It was rare for him to crack a smile except when he told one of his corny jokes to classes as he did every Friday as his one concession to the notion of giving students a reward. It would have surprised one and all to know that he did like his job. It satisfied his need for order and discipline. The officious computer science teacher was undisputed lord and master of his computer lab, this was a source of great satisfaction to him. His mien away from school couldn’t have been any different. With his wife and three children he was loose and carefree and indulged everyone’s whims and loved nothing more than horseplay with his boys and hugging and playfully teasing his daughter. Indeed he was a bit of goofball. The officious computer science teacher loves bratwurst.

The idealistic English teacher knew she couldn’t “save” every child but would never stop trying. She had a passion for the written word and went to extremes in trying to infect her charges with that same love. She believed that through writing and literature and education in general any young person could become a critical thinker and positive member of society. She was of above average height, usually wore jeans and a colorful top and had long brown hair and wore glasses. She was without debate a fetching woman. Male colleagues speculated endlessly about her. Was she married? Did she have a boyfriend? Was she a lesbian? Was she promiscuous? What would she be like in bed? Did she ever loosen up? Around colleagues the idealistic English teacher was practically lugubrious, certainly impenetrable. Besides literature she was a dedicated leftist and injected into her lessons treatises on injustices to Native Americans, the plight of Haitians and the horrors of fracking. That these often distracted from proscribed lessons was much spoken of among students and especially parents and administrators but she was otherwise such an exemplary teacher that she was more often showered with encomiums. She had enjoyed several relationships with men but they never lasted owing largely to her mercurial nature. She was a woman of many moods and in domestic settings they were all on full display; she was thus estranged from her parents. She lived in a one bedroom apartment above a bookstore with an exquisite view of the city. She loved to go out dancing, which she did most Friday nights with friends. The idealistic English teacher loves crab salads.

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