Yesterday on the local news they aired a video showing a teacher engaging in a fight with a fifteen year old student. According to the newscaster, the teacher asked the student to hand over makeup the girl was applying while class was in session. When she declined to do so, and I do not mean by saying “no, thank you” rather by getting in the teacher’s face, the older woman lost it and began punching her. I cannot help but think we have taken away any recourse teachers have in the classroom for maintaining order or garnering respect. At some point the frustration of being completely impotent with regard to discipline must begin to cause cracks in the structure of hierarchy in our classrooms. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not think that teachers should run about willy nilly plummeting their students, nor do I believe capital punishment such as rulers across palms or swatting should be tolerated, but some power needs to be given to the teacher to reprimand or defend themselves in order to provide an environment where learning can thrive.
When did we become so afraid of our children? I wonder that often. I know as a child my parents were definitely not afraid of me. In turn I wasn’t afraid of them either (well maybe a little), but I did respect them. If told to do something I certainly wasn’t allowed to continue what I was doing and ignore them, or worse yet say something sarcastic in response. My mother’s motto was, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out”. There wasn’t one instance growing up I can remember being spanked, still when my mother spoke, it was like “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”.
Looking back I had several standout teachers. Mrs. Potter in the fourth grade. A serene soul who wore support stockings and sensible shoes, and if you got close enough smelled a bit like mothballs. I loved her. Shy at that age, and newly arrived from Canada, Mrs. Potter took me under he ample wing and helped me to acclimate to my new surroundings until I was ready to fly on my own. As a Canadian dropped into a Southern California society, not only did I look different, not being tan and blonde (at the time naturally), and still saying “serviette” instead of napkin and emphasizing my sentences with “eh”, there was a certain amount of teasing to be endured before I was to be accepted. To add to the mix I was still wearing my coat of baby fat, and glasses making the target area for wounding me somewhat bigger. If it hadn’t been for her gentle reassurance, and supportive atta girls probably my first year on American soil might have been much more difficult than it was.
Another teacher worth a mention came along in ninth grade. A nomad even at that age, this was the sixth school I’d attended since Mrs. Potter’s class. One thing I’ll say about moving around a lot is that you develop a thicker skin with each relocation. Adapting to new surroundings and situations comes at a much faster pace than in the beginning. I entered high school at ninety-eight pounds leaving my baby fat behind me in the seventh grade. Still shy, but cracking through the surface of my shell and taking a look around much more frequently, I was assigned Miss Bailey for English. English, language and art classes easily held my attention, where with math and science I had to work hard to find my muse. Miss Bailey, a maiden lady who often said her students were her children, was one of those humans who finds her calling early in life and settles in comfortably on top of it like a hen guarding her eggs. Not a jocular being by any stretch of the imagination, her humor was more wry leaning on irony. Less than perfect was an unacceptable standard under her watch and she held no quarter for slackers or “lazy Larry’s” as she referred to those deemed not striving to do their best. In her classroom I was faced with a school year packed with book reports, to my dismay 50% oral. For me this held the level of fear of being asked to address the nation on the eve of war. Standing naked, at least symbolically, before my peers I would stumble over my well rehearsed words as though reading them for the first time. Fear getting the best of me, even though I’d read the book assigned when my name was called I’d say I hadn’t done my report. Miss Bailey would look down at me over the glasses perched on the end of her nose as if scanning me to detect a lie and spotting one glowing brightly below the surface of my skin.
Composition was my strong suit in English. Writing came easier to me than speaking aloud. My fears, hopes and dreams came alive on paper and Miss Bailey poked and prodded the best out of my attempts to learn that year, telling me I could write, should write, will write. I remember her for that.
There were the bad seeds as well in high school. Mr. Braxton, our driver’s ed teacher would wear the crown on this list. A small man, not short really, but bent over as though he was carrying the weight of mankind on his shoulders. He sported a well sprayed comb over even Donald Trump would applaud and was known to pass gas at regular intervals rendering the classroom nearly inconsolable. Each day he arrived precisely at the sound of the bell. Dressing was not his strong suit, as I remember. A white shirt, slightly yellowed, possibly due to the fact he was a single man and owned no bleach or that he chain smoked lighting one butt with another behind the gym. His collar was held fast by one of a selection of many gaudy bow ties he had a preference for rounded off by a pair of dark pants suitably short enough to prepare him for any rising water situation, and white socks. When speaking, he pondered his shoes with such rapt attention I wondered if the meaning of life was written on their shiny leather exteriors, clearing his throat from one sentence to the next seemingly to give the words following room to emerge. While lecturing monotonously on the finer points of drive shafts and pistons, most of the boys in the class occupied their time firing spit wads at his hindquarters while the girls gossiped amongst themselves. The only thing I took from his class at the end of the semester was compassion. Teenagers can be incredibly cruel.
So, this is my salute to teachers. They guide and prod us to achieve and revel in our successes as their own. Underpaid and overworked, they help us to mold our incorrigible children into viable human beings often without so much as a pat on the back.
They had huge artichokes on sale at the market yesterday so I could not resist. Rather than have melted butter or mayonnaise, I decided to try something new as well. This had a bit of a bit and added something special.
Tangy Artichoke Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 drops hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to use.