Column | A Tribute to Teachers
With school back in full swing, I’d like to say a few words about teachers, without whom none of us would know what in the heck to do with the word “whom.”
I come from a long-ish line of teachers myself. My mother taught elementary and middle school for over 30 years, and my grandmother also had a brief stint practicing the pedagogical arts. I guess you could say teaching is in my blood – like a serious infection. In fact, “pedagogy” kind of sounds like the name of a disease.
“I’m sorry, sir, you have an acute case of pedagogy, and I’m afraid we don’t have an ointment for that.”
Some folks may labor under the delusion that teaching is a relatively easy career – with short workdays, summers off, loads of holidays, and late nights praying fervently for catastrophic levels of precipitation when snow is in the forecast. (OK, maybe that’s just me.)
Sure, teachers may get a little more time off than some professionals, but they need these precious moments of psychological rehab to keep from setting their hair on fire and running naked through the streets – especially when snow is in the forecast.
Just think about all of the irritating behaviors and disgusting bodily functions that your children have inflicted upon you over the years. I can assure you that these outrages have been visited upon your children’s teachers, as well. Only, instead of dealing with two or three human larvae breaking wind and finding creative ways to refer to each other as the nether regions of various farm animals, teachers are saddled with up to 30 at a time – all while trying to teach them long division.
And I would know.
My own olfactory nerves were permanently damaged during my short tenure teaching junior high. In fact, back when I was in seventh grade, amid diagramming sentences, my friends and I used to see how often we could prompt our English teacher to pull out the Lysol within a 60-minute class period. By the time the bell rang, the room could’ve been mistaken for an overcrowded feed lot – with a hint of linen freshness.
Besides actually managing students within the fragrant confines of the classroom, teachers are also subjected to various other “duties as assigned,” including hall duty, bus duty, lunch duty, recess duty, carpool duty and many other great big piles of duty. Have you ever spent some quality time monitoring a junior high school cafeteria? It’s a great way to lose weight (and your hearing). I call it the Food-Fight, Boisterous-Belch, Milk-Spew, Jell-o-Slurp, Giggle-Snort, School Cafeteria Diet. Once you’ve seen an eighth-grader fork down a cafeteria style French dip – a sandwich made out of a roll and everything else on his sectioned tray (dunked in chocolate milk), you may never bring yourself to eat again.
Now don’t get me wrong. Teaching does have its rewards. There is nothing quite like the joy of watching a child learn. Teachers have the privilege of introducing their beloved students to such important concepts as dangling participles (not to be confused with other offensive dangling things – like prepositions), the Shakespearean origin of the word “puking,” and algebra.
Teachers really are the unsung heroes in America. Sure, we all pay lip service to honoring teachers by force-feeding them enough desserts to send them into a carbohydrate freak-out on Teacher Appreciation Days, and we bring them tacky Christmas gifts like mugs, candles and apple-shaped bath bombs that make them smell like they underwent a prolonged hot-cider baptism. (I’ll bet if my mom had lit all of her teacher-gift candles at once, they could’ve easily be seen from the Death Star.) But couldn’t a society that wastes $9.8 billion a year on gastrointestinal discomfort at Taco Bell do more to show our thanks?
While I don’t want to get into the debate about teacher pay, I can promise you this: Teachers aren’t paid too much, their insurance isn’t overly generous, and their retirement plans aren’t excessively lucrative. And if you need to see for yourself that teachers earn every cent of their salaries (and beyond), volunteer at your child’s school sometime. I’ll bet they could use you in the cafeteria.