Sunday, January 4, 2009

Occupational Hazards

When I taught English in Tucson, a girl was hired maybe two years after I arrived. She was, and for all I know, still is "quirky." She wore the hipster uniform of black, clunky glasses, clogs, striped tights, and cardigans (this was several years ago, granted). Whatever she taught, be it To Kill a Mockingbird, thesis statements, prepositional phrases, or propaganda, it always, always tied back to memorable episodes of Scooby Doo. When I met her, I instantly assumed that she would be a hit with the students. I was wrong.

I say this with no trace of smugness. Being hated, for long or short bursts of time, is an occupational hazard of teaching middle school. There was one student, (I still remember her name, but will not share it), that hated me with an intensity I've never encountered before or since. She sneered at me, whispered comments about me, dropped off her homework with a derisive huff, and told any teacher that would tolerate it that she "Was going to get [her] father to get Ms. Mohrman fired." (PS--That's me, pre-marriage).

So, whatever. At the time, it bothered me a little. Okay, way too much. "Why doesn't she liiiiiikkkkkkee me? " I would whine to then-boyfriend Paul. In my defense, it was my second year teaching. I was twenty-three years old. My skin was pretty thin. You could see the veins and internal organs through it. I mean, it was thin.

Life moved on, her father didn't get me fired, and we eventually drifted to our different stations in life. In January 2008, Paul and I returned to Tucson, after a four year hiatus. We stayed with friends, Paul ran a marathon, Owen saw cactus, we were warm. It was great.

One afternoon, we were at this sandwich place, Baggins. We were eating our sandwiches, and enjoying the complimentary chocolate chip cookies, when the former student walked in. She must have been in her first or second year of college, but her distinctive features (cough, nose, cough) gave her away. I know she saw me, too, because she looked me in the eye, gasped, and turned to her friend and loudly announced, "We need to go. There's something that smeelllllls in here!"

Really. I wish I was making this up.

So, again---being detested is simply part of the job when you choose to work with adolescents. Most of my students liked me, and I certainly enjoyed their company, too. I think I was a good teacher, with my own blind spots and areas to grow.

Which is why I'm not smug, thinking about the hipster teacher. She had a soft voice, an intense fear of germs, and a honest fear that the kids pounced upon, shredding her like a pride of lions on the African Savanna. But, she asked for help, took advantage of opportunities, showed up each day, and earned their attention, if not their respect. I wonder if she's still teaching, and if so, if she likes it. Is each day another adventure on the Mystery Machine or are her plans still thwarted by those meddling kids?

Odds and Ends Section
* I started this post planning to talk about my recent obsession with hand washing and hand sanitizer, which is what made me think of hipster teacher. This is what came out. Isn't the brain funny?
*Confession Time: I listen to music that has bad words in it when it's just Joel in the car. It's not like his mind is being shaped and formed at an astonishing rate or anything. Why shouldn't a five month old be exposed to the poetic stylings of Ol' Dirty Bastard?
*Owen has taken to saying things like, "Mommy, I have something important to tell you!" or "Mommy, stop doing that. It's time to listen to Owen!" With a set-up like that, it must be important right? No. Once I have his full attention, he usually says things like, "Fleagul."
*My girlfriends and I talk about the three doctors at our pediatric practice the way that the young folks talk about Lauren, Audrina, and Spencer on MTV's The Hills
*I've felt like the Grinch, removing the decorations during Owen's nap times to avoid potential meltdowns. He came downstairs after a nap, rubbing his sleepy eyes, and cried, "What happened to the ornaments?" I tell him that Santa came while he was sleeping, and took all the ornaments away to clean them. He pondered this, then said, "Santa better not take my easel!"

Making this the longest post ever: Gratuitous Pictures!

This is from the infamous Tucson trip.
The giraffe attempted to French-kiss Owen.
See me smiling. "Go on, honey. Touch the filthy
animal with the eight foot long tongue."

1 comment:

Brian Bindschadler said...

Okay - I know who the teacher is (who is still at OG), but who is the former student?