There's a teacher at my school who is a cool guy. He just is. First of all, he's a guy teacher, and guy teachers of any kind, cool or not, are a rare quantity at my school. And he is, indisputably, a cool teacher. Every girl has a crush on him and every boy wants to be him.
He's a tough act to follow, since most kids tend to have him and then me for the same subject. He has a reputation for being nicer and I have a reputation for being tougher (I love it!), but I think the kids come to appreciate us for different reasons. Also, he is a genuinely nice guy and a good teacher, and we have a friendly rivalry going for the kids' respect, attention, and affection.
I was spending some time with some of my students today at lunch, and some of the kids were reminiscing about lunchtimes spent with Mr. Cool in the past. One boy I'll call Drew was favorably comparing lunchtimes with me to lunchtimes with Mr. Cool. He wanted to know my favorite rapper. Another student asked me if I like Linkin Park. (I tried to express my distaste in a polite manner.) Two students were helping me sort some books and covering their hands in the leftover sticky labels. We were listening to some classic rock on Pandora. (Explain to me how these kids today got into Journey and Aerosmith?)
I love times like these with the kids, in case you can't tell. They become unguarded and casual and sweet, and since I have no particular agenda to impose, we just hang out and chat. Sometimes they do little chores for me if they feel like it, and I give them candy or pencils. (Usually pencils.) I like it, I think, precisely because it's "not my job" to amuse them at lunch. I can turn them away if I want or need to. It's just that I usually don't.
Anyway, back to Mr. Cool. After the eight millionth Mr. Cool story, it was almost the end of the period and I had to send the kids packing. "Hey," I said to them, "I'm really glad you decided to have lunch with me. Really, you can come almost any time. It's...cool with me."
Drew shook his head patiently. "Miss Eyre," he said, "see, that's why Mr. Cool is cool."
"Why?" I asked, confused.
"Because he would never say something like, 'It's cool with me.'"
"But I hear you guys say that all the time," I protested. "Besides, I'm not that old. My friends say that, too."
"Yeah," he says, "but you're a teacher. It's different."
I guess it is. And I guess I'll never be as cool as Mr. Cool. But I do love kids' honesty.