Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fiction about Teachers

And I'm not talking novels here. No, I'm talking about those rumors about teachers that seem to start out of nowhere and reify infinitely in the popular imagination.

One of my great guilty pleasures in life is advice columns, and Slate's Dear Prudence often has just the right amount of smh-ing, schadenfreude, and other assorted train wreckage to brighten my Mondays and Thursdays. Today, for example, an anxious parent asked Prudie what would happen if s/he (the parent) did not buy his/her child's teacher a gift for Christmas.

Well, I'm a teacher. Let me tell you what will happen.


That's right. NOTHING.

Don't get me wrong. I cherish the gifts I receive from students, and their handwritten notes and cards mean the world to me. I save every last one of them because I am a sentimental hoarder. But some children and parents simply don't give gifts. It's certainly not my place to speculate why, and even less my place to treat a child differently because he or she does not give a gift. This is not rocket science or even good teaching. I assumed that this was simply GOOD MANNERS.

How does this stuff get started, that teachers treat kids who don't give them gifts differently? Are we really the guilty ones on this? Do you have colleagues whose lives are so empty and devoid of meaning that they need a Whitman's Sampler from a twelve-year-old's parents to make them feel better, and if they don't receive it, they will take their deep-seated personal issues out on the unfortunate preteen(s) involved?

I am tempted to simply file this one alongside other teacher fiction, like "The teacher threw out my paper, even though the papers of my twenty-seven classmates are all present and accounted for, because s/he hates me" and "Teachers come to work at eight, leave at three, and never work weekends, holidays, or summers." But I do wonder where this stuff comes from.

And if you're guilty...Miss Eyre is looking for you!

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