The above is something I’m seeing a lot this week. I’ve often seen it as a bumper sticker. And every time I have seen it on a car in front of me, I’ve felt a deep-seated urge to ram it. This “teacher appreciation week” … stuff … Well, let’s put it this way. Thank a teacher? No. I can read that because my mother taught me to read.
I went to what are probably ranked as good schools. I test well, so I landed in advanced placement classes from early on. I’ve loved books since I – thanks to my mom – learned to read at four. I’ve always loved to learn.
Yet school was always a trial for me at best, a misery at worst. Every time this “teacher appreciation” tripe comes up, I try – I really do try – to come up with one single solitary teacher in elementary school, junior high, high school (*shudder*), or art school who did anything to change my life for the better. There were a small handful of teachers who knew their subjects well, and gave evidence of loving what they did, who did a better job than others at disseminating information. But except perhaps for Mrs. Ellen Schattan in second grade, I do not have a positive memory of any teacher. At all. Because I was both introverted and shy (which I now know are not the same thing), I was invisible in every class I had, and there was never a teacher who … bothered. I never had a Mr. Keating.
So – what do I have to thank a teacher for this week? Let’s see.
I’m thinking, hold on …
Wait, I know.
I can thank all those teachers who so blatantly played favorites with the ones who were not introverted or shy – they prepared me for the “real world”.
I can thank my tenth grade English teacher for accusing me of stealing that poem I wrote for an assignment – after the horror and outrage died down, I learned to take it as a compliment.
I can thank the other English teacher (or was it the same old bat?) who made me loathe, despise, and dread Charles Dickens – she left for me the joy of discovery when I re-read him on my own.
I can thank the teacher who, based on my standardized test scores, plucked me and a handful of others out of regular classes one day a week to take part in a brand-new pilot “creative learning program” which thoroughly irritated all the teachers of those regular classes who had to then do more work to keep us caught up, and who never hesitated to take it out on us – I … um … I learned to play chess and handled a computer for the first time. (I don’t know what the point of the CLP was supposed to be, but I did learn to play chess – from another student – and followed flawed directions to instruct the computer to print out a deformed picture of … the Playboy bunny logo. I’ll never understand that one. Never touched a computer again in school. Yes, I’m old.)
I can thank the French teacher who never seemed to notice I existed until I told her I was dropping French for art, upon which she exhibited a deep personal hurt – she made me learn to do what was right for me even in the face of irrational petulance.
I can thank the teachers who belittled me, especially the ones who did it in class … no, I got nothing on that one.
I can thank the teachers who complained so often and so loudly to their classes about how underpaid they were, because – knowing each and every one of them made more than both my parents combined – it made me appreciate my parents’ hard work more.
I can thank that one art history teacher who gave bad information throughout the class – she made me learn how to research independently and find out actual facts.
I can thank the teachers who ignored me or apparently forgot I existed (that’s most of them) – they helped me get used to independence and making it on my own, for giving me… no, forcing me to create the tools I needed to become the autodidact I am today.
I can thank that one art teacher, the one my friends loved so much, who took one look at the painting I’d put so much time into at home in my (apparently damp) basement before I screwed my courage to the sticking place and asked her for her opinion … and said only “It’s moldy” before walking away, leaving me squashed into a gooey puddle – she taught me to … er … paint in a dryer environment? Maybe? (I don’t think it was really moldy. Couldn’t tell you for sure, because I threw that thing away almost immediately.)
I can thank all my advanced-placement teachers who managed to neglect to help me, the first one in my family for a couple of generations who was even interested in going to college, prepare for – or even to know about – the SAT’s – that made me pretty damn proud of the score I got without any help at all.
Hey, I owe teachers so much more than I thought I did! Thanks, you guys! Maybe you made my life completely miserable for the first half of my life – but look how much I got out of it! I feel so lucky.