Teachers shouldn’t be jerks. If you choose to educate then you shouldn’t pride yourself on making others miserable. This may seem like common knowledge, an easy fact of life much like the sun sets in the west and Manchester United is the greatest soccer club of all time. It shouldn’t be a discussion. If you teach, you shouldn’t be a jerk. Period.
Ah, alas. No such period. Perhaps an ellipse because there’s more to the story for many. There’s no feel-good school movie where the kids rise above circumstances and the teacher changes their lives. There’s just grumpiness and flat out rudeness for a lot of teachers.
I had a teacher in high school. Loved to quote the Bible and was a very Old Testament kind of guy. Didn’t much love to live the Bible though. What he did loved was to fail kids and make life as miserable for them as possible. He was not a good guy. I don’t know what happened in his life to make him so angry, but whatever it was, it didn’t have anything to do with me or my classmates. He shouldn’t have been teaching.
But just like all abusive relationships, it’s the innocents who suffer. Another teacher in high school – math. She made me feel so stupid that numbers have forever become like a venomous serpent in my eyes. I feel stupid when I see numbers and I feel like I’m being judged whenever I have to work with them. I felt all eyes on me and imagined whispers “what is he doing? He can’t do that? What a moron.” All of that because of one teacher and her cruel behavior. She shouldn’t have been teaching.
Another teacher – this one in college. He taught speech. Extraordinarily cruel and actively abused students. This was back in the day before the internet and viral cancellation. Something like their behavior likely wouldn’t stand in today’s world. I remember a friend. Her grandmother died and she had to give a speech the next day. She went to the professor and asked for an extension. I was there and I heard what this curly, greasy haired little shrimp of a wee-man said.
“Grandmothers die every day.”
I’m not a pacifist. I do believe violence can solve things from time to time. But I don’t go out looking for fights. I’ve been in one fist fight in my entire life, and that came when I was 30 years old. There are very few times I’ve wanted to hit someone. I’d rather use my mind to solve my problems. But on that bright September day, I wanted to beat the ever-living hell out of this guy who made my friend cry.
I didn’t. She didn’t give the speech. She got a zero. He kept his teeth.He shouldn’t have been teaching
I’ve read a lot about what makes a person cruel. Why are some people jerks? Why are some people cowards? Oh, how many cowards there are. They are everywhere. We see them every day. Living life the easy way rather than the right way. Why? As for teachers, you mix a cruel and/or cowardly person with a group of kids and you are brewing a storm. I don’t think some teachers know, or more likely just don’t care, that your words kill souls and ambition.
Let me tell you what words did to me. I wrote a book, fiction, back when I was about 23. So more than 20 years ago. It was about a Cherokee daddy looking for his daughter during the Trail of Tears. I sent it off to publishers and couldn’t get a bite. So I emailed a professor and asked for her help. She gave me the contact information of a dinosaur in the LSU English department. He mailed me back the manuscript completely destroyed and bleeding and then called me to drive the point home. His words were so harsh they literally gave me writer’s block for two decades. Looking over it now I see it’s not a good book. It’s the product of a 23 year old. But his cruelty was reprehensible and shocking and I wondered how he had gotten away with being such a jerk his entire life. He shouldn’t have been teaching.
That was a long time ago and I’ve finally gotten over it and gone back to writing with two additional novels completed and awaiting publication.
But that cruelty still messes with my head. Why was he such a jerk? I don’t know. Just like I don’t know what makes people cowards. I don’t know why people are two-faced. I don’t know why people are terrified of confrontation. I don’t know why people scheme behind the backs of others instead of just talking to their face. I don’t get passive aggressive people and I don’t get cruel people. I don’t get bullies and I don’t get wimps. They all are bad and putting any of these types in a classroom is only going to further deteriorate the quality of education in American schools.
I am an example of how lasting an impact bad teachers can have on people. If that dude could mess with my head like that then what kind of effect can a cruel teacher have on a young student? It’s why I’ll never be a “bully” to one of my students. Never. Worst thing a teacher can be. Kids shouldn’t dread coming to your class. If they do then you aren’t a good teacher. You’re an A double crooked letter and hopefully you’ll get out of the profession.
Many people shouldn’t be teachers. I just wish that could be realized before the damage is done.
(Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been recognized five times for excellence in opinion writing by the Louisiana Press Association.)
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