Jobs 4

High School English Teacher

I have touched on my time in this job before.  This is a holding post for the sake of the sequence: even now, almost 20 years after, my travails as a teacher are not something I can revisit comfortably.

The one thing I can say with reasonable confidence is that my fellow English teachers were perhaps the greatest bunch of social misfits I have worked together with in my life. I mean this both positively and negatively. There was much scheming against a female head of English who had evidently been brought in to straighten things out. When she set up a creative writing magazine for the students, works were submitted under the assumed names of various students. One such piece (attributed to a boy in year 8 or 9) began:

“I love creative writing; it’s quite my favourite task
My muse forever haunts me – I never have to ask.
And when the craze is on me, I’ll write for hours on end
Plays, stories poetry – wheree’er my fancies tend.”

Other, more scurrilous rhymes were composed in late night drinking sessions after debating on Friday nights or parent-teacher nights.

One effect of teaching which I observed in myself is that, accustomed to parting the crowds in the playground with a purposive walk and a defensive scowl, I caught myself doing it in the world at large (though less effectively). I only really became a real person in the middle of the school holidays.

The thing I never really got used to as a teacher is the notion of fulfilling a public persona (which was inherently authoritarian) which was utterly divergent from my own private life. Now I have become more acclimatized to that public-private divide, which doesn’t only apply to teachers, or even to those in positions of authority.

5 Responses to “Jobs 4”

  1. ninglun Says:

    Oh dear, Marcel, I could empathise with this: see Interlude 2: Marcel’s teaching experience.

  2. el fomentador Says:

    Hi, I had to make a comment. I considered a career as a high school English teacher when I was an undergrad. Then I looked at all of the high school English teachers I had known over the years and realized that they become very rigid. They are plugged into and held back by a system that, as you point out, is often filled with petty jealousy and back-biting.

    It’s a funny but sad detail about the submissions to the student literary magazine, but can be attributed to burned-out teachers stuck in a job they hate so they can hold out for their pension. Not all teachers I realize. I got in trouble once with some teachers when I suggested that there should be a mandatory retirement age of 55 for all public school teachers–that would give them time to go out and find a real job for a few years before they retire. I thought I was going to start a riot! I know it can be a challenging job and there are lots of good teachers out there.

    Of course, if you want to move up in the system you need to become an administrator–and they are even more rigid than long-time teachers!! So after working as a newspaper reporter and editor for several years I decided on grad school and speech/language pathology. I got to teach lots of interesting and important things to motivated clients of all ages.

    I’ve been in Mexico now four several years trying to teach pronunciation of American English and if you think the system in the states is bad, well, there is a reason Mexico ranks low on international surveys of education. Here teachers are under the thumb of a corrupt national union. They go along to get along–low pay, few hours, no resources, etc. But I quoted one teacher as saying she had heard many teachers say: If I only get half of a salary, I will only do half of a job. That hurts to think that these people have the responsibility to educate our children! Please visit “el fomentador” and feel free to make a comment. Thanks.

  3. Interlude 2: Marcel’s teaching experience « Floating Life Says:

    […] My fellow WordPress blogger Marcellous has written a funny and honest account of  life as an English teacher, even if he hints at a darker side. I can relate only too well to “scheming against a female […]

  4. Best address in the world « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] was a colleague of ours when we taught at the [school]. He was in his thirties I suppose when I taught with him in the English department and I doubt if he reached 60. As Nx, whom I later rang to pass on the news said “He never […]

  5. Bailey Street, Newtown « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] of my time in Bailey Street coincided with my turbulent years as a high school English teacher, but by this time I had started at law school.   The prospect of intervals without […]

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