Monday, May 26, 2008

Predators vs. Saints

That could almost be a good NFL matchup, but I'm really talking about the dualism that permeates popular characterization of teachers. "Martyrs" is probably more accurate than "saints," but it doesn't scan as well as a "team name." Loonyhiker got me thinking about the issue a few days ago.

I really don't see that most people have been influenced by the "news" stories about teachers who exploit and/or betray their students. I dunno; maybe I'm just lucky. ;) I think people today realize that so-called "news" isn't just news, it's also entertainment (and to a lesser extent, propaganda). It has been since... well, probably since always. And so in that sense, at least, our reputation seems to be intact. Ladies and gentlemen, it's postmodern skepticism to the rescue!

On the other hand, I do hear, "Oh, you're a teacher? I could NEVER do that!"


I mean, unless you get assigned to a rubber room, or you have abusive students/parents and no support from administration, it's really a pretty awesome job. (And if you like to read, the rubber room isn't so bad - you could get completely caught up on all the books you hadn't had time for when you were actually teaching.)

It's not a cakewalk, mind you, but it's something that just about anyone with good perception, decent people skills, a reasonable level of intelligence, and training in management and instructional strategies could do, if that person has the desire to do so. That seemed to be the consensus over at the Faculty Room as well.

I've been considering this for awhile. I don't think this "saint" mindset is traditional. Reading stories from, say, a hundred years ago or more that have teachers as characters, they look (for the most part) a lot more like regular folks. I think the view of teacher-as-saint came about with the declining acceptability of corporal punishment. Apparently, once you can't beat children into submission, it takes a miracle to get them to behave.

But it's really not that hard. And I'm not some rainbows-and-bunnies humanist who thinks that people are generally good. Quite the contrary. I'm a Christian, and while I don't have a particular theology of original sin worked out, I've found that deep down, people (including children) are incredibly selfish. They can, however, be taught that socially appropriate behavior is to their own benefit.

However, it seems that most people don't like to think of children that way. It is somehow more comfortable to imagine that they are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and yet angelic and innocent. And so those who can work successfully with them are seen as miracle workers.



Melissa B. said...

I agree--teaching is an awesome job. I've been on 6 continents & had a number of high-profile jobs, but my current one--teaching journalism/English in a public high school--is the best! I came to the profession late (40) and have been at it for 14 years. No, I'm not a saint, but I could be paid better, ya know?

cupcake said...

Even when they are unpredictable and uncontrollable, I still say teaching is a great gig. Trying to figure out the Rubik's cube that is classroom management is part of the fun. It also occasionally leads me to drive home in tears, but, by golly, I go back the next day.

Hope springs eternal in the classroom as it does nowhere else in the world.

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