How can I avoid this subject?  Knowing, as we all do now, that it was greedy teachers that wrecked our economy and not bankers and Wall Street brokers, it’s time for me to throw some pennies in the jar marked [OPINION].

I think I have had personal and protracted experience with enough teachers in my time to form an opinion.  Between elementary school, secondary school, college, graduate school and enough post graduate courses to brake the bank of many a small nation I have had my share of teachers, professors and instructors.  As with most things in life the bulk of them fell in that big pile we call “average”.  Make no mistake, there were also stinkers.  There were also stars that changed my life and caused me to be a different person on the way out than I was coming in.  Before I tell you about them though I would like to say something about the “coming in” part.

As a child it was explained to me that your brain was a tool-box.  I was informed that you could lose, or have taken away from you, your money, property, good name, loved ones and even your self respect, but, not what you had learned.  Not the tools you made a point to put in that tool box we call a brain.  Teachers, I was told, handed out those tools to students anxious to acquire them.  Accent on the “anxious”.  Without that anxious part teachers might as well stay home.  This is something, I feel, that doesn’t get addressed quite enough when we talk about education.

Lets say you would like your child to be a concert pianist.  You can hire the best and most expensive piano teacher in the country.  You can purchase a $50,000 piano for your child to play.  If they are not willing and “anxious” to practice all you have the right to expect from the teacher and the piano is chop-sticks.  That pretty much describes the state of American education today… chop-sticks.  In short, I blame the students and the parents who failed to explain to their children the importance of filling that tool box with tools.  Lets just call them parents who take chop-sticks for an answer from their children, but, blame teachers and pianos for the acute lack of Beethoven’s piano concerto #3 and be done with it.  Case closed.

I grant the gentle reader that really good teachers have the ability to ratchet up the level of “anxious” on the part of the student.  I can remember two that really stand out in my mind who, in their time, did that for me.  One was a female algebra teacher in high school and the other was a professor of anatomy much later.  I don’t think either of them could get a job teaching today.  To put it bluntly, they were abusive.  To put it another way, concern for your self esteem was the farthest thing from their mind.  In point of fact there was only one possible way not to be orally abused and made to feel like something the cat dragged in and that was total mastery of the subject matter assigned.  Their classes were not for the  sensitive whose “feelings” could be hurt and not heal in moments.  They were feared by each and every one of their students because they were formidable scholars themselves that exuded competence and demanded nothing less than that from you.  In todays public schools they would be considered dangerous, insensitive brutes by the administrators and suicide generators by the school psychologists.  Most parents today would, no doubt, concur.  Lawyers would have a field day.

I think that is, mostly, why our schools have gone to crap.



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2 responses to “TEACHERS

  1. Robert Redus

    Mrs. N…
    Teachers…especially the great ones have become like Tom Waits…John Prine even Donald Fagan…they have/had a unique money making voice…but now a days…not the voice to get through the first elimination round of American Idol….

    I think to install that “anxious”…nature…takes passionate instruction…

    You have to admit there was something almost pleasurable about knowing that if you humped the pooch in the class taught by one of “those teachers”.. that it was not beyond them to throw something…or humiliate you right there in front of the class…that sense of impending doom was exhilarating…enough so that tempting fate made education and learning exciting…caused anxious to spread like cholera in the old west…

  2. Yes Robert… “that sense of impending doom was exhilarating”.

    I remember an anatomy professor. I funny looking man who wore loud sports jackets and a bad hair piece. He entered the class first day and we thought to ourselves… “Get a load of this guy.” His first act was to pick up a copy of Gray’s Anatomy and hand it to a student half way to the back of the class. As he walked toward the board he said, “Call out a page number.” The student said something like, “463”.
    Upon reaching the board he began to recite, word for word, what was on that page while producing a detailed drawing of the illustration the page contained. We sat dumbfounded. When he finished he put down the chalk and said, “Anyone not interested in knowing this material fully… GET OUT!”
    Needless to say the students self esteem was not his concern. He not only caused me to learn the material, but, by providing such an example carried all of us to a new level.
    What I remember most about the man was what he always said when a student greeted him and politely enquired how he was today. He would stop, shudder a little bit, and smile and say… “WAY too good”.

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