My mother was a teacher. She taught in the public schools of Chicago for 37 years. I once told her that I was thinking of becoming a teacher, and she told me that, if I did, she’d disown me.
Mom loved kids, and loved teaching. She believed that if a kid could read, he could learn anything. When a kid came into her class unable to read, she’d tell them that they had to read a book a week and turn in a book report every Monday morning. A guy I met at Northwestern, who was to go on to become a doctor, was one of those kids. I found out by accident: I was on the phone and his name came up in my conversation. When I hung up, Mom said, “I think I taught him.” I asked him about it, and he told me how Mom had worked with him and made him read. I found out at her funeral that there was a girl who couldn’t see the board, and whose family couldn’t afford glasses for her, so Mom paid for them.
So, how could this woman, who gave birth to me and my brothers and raised us to be the men we are today, threaten me with being cut out of her will if I were to follow in her footsteps and teach? Easy: as much as she loved kids and loved teaching, she hated being a teacher. It wasn’t what went on in the classroom that she hated (although she had her days), it was what went on outside it: dealing with (some of) the other teachers, a crazy principal, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Chicago Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Education, the US Department of Education, parents who really didn’t care what went on as long as the kids were out of the house when Judge Judy, Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, and The View were on, the seedy underside of the neighborhood (drugs, gangs, crime, etc.), dealing with the drive to and from her school in the city and our house in the suburbs, and all the other aggravations that went along with being a public schoolteacher in an inner-city school. She wanted to spare me the aggravation she had somehow learned to deal with all those years.
So, in answer to the prompt “If you had to be a school teacher, what age and/or subject would you choose to teach and why,” the answer is I’d fight tooth and nail against it.
To return to the prompt we had last week, about where I saw education in a hundred years, all I can say is that I hope we stop making kids dumb…