Um, Natalie . . . I'm no one and people in Japan, Egypt and Belarus read my blog. See, there's this thing called the "interweb" . . . If you want only your friends to read your blog, you need to make it private. There are buttons to click for this. Your lazy, whining, sub-standard students could explain this to you in about six seconds.
Ah, whatever. I notice your "followers" went from about ninety-one to almost five-hundred in a few days. So, that's nice for you, disturbing for me.
The thing is, I don't want to contribute to her fame. That's where I'm torn. But I want to counteract her acceptance from those who say: "Yeah! You go girl! Kids are lazy and whiny and gross!" -- as if every generation hasn't said something similar about the previous one.
Please, whatever happens, don't make this woman a hero for the embattled and (of course) intrinsically better older generation. She doesn't need to be fired. She is not a hero. She is not a villain. She is worse. She is commonplace -- the carrier of a snooty, superior adult attitude that is typical and cliched. (And it only took her a few years of teaching to develop it. I know thirty-five-year veteran teachers who haven't made it that far yet.)
Chances are, the generation before you probably thought you were the beginning of the end of society. Were you?
I've taught teenagers for about twenty years, from high school to college. If you read kids on the surface, the way Natalie (whose blog is a reference to our going to hell in a hand basket -- an indicator of her prevailing mindset) does, they can be annoying. (I wonder if it ever occurred to her that they act the way they do just to make her mad. Nah. Teenagers never try to make older people mad. Forget I brought it up.)
Do my students make me mad? Frustrate me? Sometimes. So do my own children, but I wouldn't trash them (anonymously or by name) in front of the world.
The way I see it, if you are a teacher and can't see the poetry, energy, the potential and the involuntary honesty in high school students, you should quit. One could argue that kids give teachers what they deserve: respect or the other thing.
Do you remember daydreaming? Being bored to death in class and looking at the clock and being amazed that it was only three minutes after the last time you checked? Do you remember knowing you teacher didn't like kids -- even if you were wrong? Do you remember adults saying to you, "Why can't you just . . . " when you simply couldn't? You just couldn't do whatever it was. We need to remember, to teach well.
I see my job as teaching. Period. There's no "unless the kids make it difficult" codicil. There's no "unless the parents don't stand behind me" clause. There is no get-out-free pass for kids who are hard to like. As a teacher, if a kid doesn't learn in my class, I consider it my failure. It's not society's fault. It's not the parents' fault. My fault. I have a job to do, no matter how hard it is. I've committed to helping kids. And I have failed many times and that bothers me, deeply, but I don't try to cover up my failures by blaming the world for going to hell in a hand basket.
Maybe all of my students don't love me, but not one can fairly accuse me of ever having given up on him. My job is to figure out a way to teach even those many would label as "unteachable" when they appear on my roster, as well as the ones who would "learn in spite of me" as we say in the profession.
And you know what? I believe what I referred to in a recent post: teenagers are the purest form of who we, as adults, are. They know what makes them happy, instinctually. They know what they want out of life. They know how to live in the moment. Sure, they don't have the maturity or the means to pull things together yet. The crime is, the adult world, instead of helping them to draw a map to their dreams, convinces them the dreams themselves are immature. Instead of helping the kids to revise their dreams into realistic ones, we make them crumple everything up and start over on something new -- something practical. Something they really don't want but feel they need to surrender to.
Maybe it is the grown-ups who are lazy whiners. Maybe we don't want to work hard enough to teach difficult kids; to help them sort out complicated, embryonic dreams; to understand the place their protests and rebellion comes from; to make up for some of the innocent mistakes their parents may have made, instead of condemning them all as bad role models.
I'm not a former hippie -- I wasn't born until 1968. But I tell you, the kids are alright. I work with them daily and I come out of school, most days, with more hope for the world than when I walked in. Sometimes, it is hard to see, but there is a light around the younger generation. Don't let the shadow of popular thought hide it from you. We owe it to the kids to find the positive things -- the magic -- in them and help them to wield it. We owe it to our own futures and to our consciences.
I'll say it again: she shouldn't be fired. She should just consider a new profession. Clearly teaching isn't making her happy.