The Terms of My Divorce (Part II)

[Part II on my justification behind leaving the teaching profession behind. Part I is here, and Melanie Hubbard’s “Too Much to Ask,” which prompted this rebuttal, is still available here.]

When “the perpetual yeller” (he screamed every time he entered my classroom, no matter what) offered to read his, much like Hubbard, I suspected foul play.  When his preamble spoke of a “new English teacher who always wears ties,” but totally “wasn’t [me],” even I knew something was up.  Yet out of all the poems I received, “Mr. Mean” was my favorite.  It actually was a good poem.  Or a poem good enough to make a man who has no great love for poetry laugh. 

(It certainly wasn’t as great as say, Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus,” but then, few are.  Plus, if he had written a defiant poem about suicide, I’d probably have to notify some authorities or something.)

This brought up a problem when having to handle the presentation.  He kept up the charade that it wasn’t about me, though clearly it was.  Do I seem paranoid and self-centered and attack him?  (As Hubbard did with her students.)  Or do I play the moron who didn’t realize that the poem was totally about him?  I opted to play the moron.  Let him have his laugh with his buddies.  I mean, he did write a killer poem.  Plus, it’s not like he’d be bragging to his friends that he wrote a good poem. 

(In all actuality Hubbard does claim that their story was a “huge pile of crap.”  But she also mentions that the student wouldn’t stop reading the tale to the class after she asked him to stop.  Which is a sign of disrespect yes; but also a sign that she didn’t have full control of the class.  Which means doing group presentations should have probably been delayed.)

No matter what you try, the kids are going to laugh at you.  It’s a given fact.  You’re no longer a child, so you won’t fit in even if you want to.  Which you shouldn’t.  The only real choice you have in the matter is what part of you that they’ll be laughing at.

My students always pestered me with questions about my love life.  Was I married?  Why not?  Did I have a girlfriend?  Why not?  Blah blah blah.  All the same questions you end up answering when you start a new job.  Now I didn’t want to give them the whole “I’m not dating suicidal women anymore” speech.  So I gave them an absurd story that was just believable enough to make them think. 

I told them that I was much too young and good-looking to get married so soon.  I still think had places to go and people to annoy.  Why would I want to be tied down?  Acknowledging your own strengths (i.e. my handsomeness) helps to keep the jackals at bay.  Most people are too shy (or not conceited enough) to boast about themselves.  This throws, and keeps, the children off-guard.  To paraphrase the mighty MURS, if I’m not my biggest fan, then who is going to be?

I can remember my friend Jackie warning me that once you’re a teacher, you can never visit the mall again.  Mainly because your “kids” will be there; scoping you, your purchases, appearance, family, whatnot out.  This initially caused me a great amount of grief.  I was (err… am) after all a mall rat.  What was I to do?

Shame be damned, I continued haunting the mall.  The children who loved me or were in love with me appreciated my anti-isolation stance.  Again, it allowed the kids to see me as a person; not just a teaching automaton.  In fact I don’t recall ever feeling that vulnerable even when I did run into someone who wasn’t a “fan.”  Most times they sat, sulked and stared; way too embarrassed to imagine making a scene.  My guess is seeing me enjoy something so indebted to youth culture, i.e. hanging out at the mall, is like having your dad call you “dawg.”  With his cap tilted sideways to boot!

Which was perfect for me because they knew I enjoyed their displeasure.  Every insult to me was answered; either directly or indirectly.

It’s this “they won’t win” mindset that teaching demands that I don’t pick up in Mrs. Hubbard’s article.  She makes it seem like she was entirely passive to her classes’ movements.  I acted in attempts to be the ever elusive “proactive.”  Sure, sometimes you fuck up and make a mistake.  That’s how you learn.  Plus, it’s their future you’re screwing over; go for it!  It’s frequently claimed that you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. 

This might possibly be true. 

Making mistakes does, however, make it impossible for you to bask in the glory of your own awesomeness.  So it’s best to avoid making them [mistakes] altogether. 

My students tried very hard to make me quit.  They were quite skilled at warding off unwanted teachers.  One permanent sub refused to return when they contacted her.  Said she’d work for any other class.  But not those kids.  Their own, original, teacher returned from maternity leave for six weeks before calling it “quits.”  (“Quits” in that she left for the remainder of the year, but stayed employed by the county to protect her benefits, and rob me of mine.  Thanks!) 

She said that “they weren’t the same kids [she] remembered.”  Even the school’s office staff warned me about those junior hooligans.  They [the office] provided me with reconnaissance sub assignments to scope out the block to see if it was really something I wanted to undertake.

[Read on to the Terms of My Divorce’s thrilling conclusion here!]

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One Response to “The Terms of My Divorce (Part II)”

  1. I am reading this at 11:11.

    *correction: I am going to be reading this @ 11:11! haha

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