Funny thing about writing a book; just when a person needs the most inspiration and guidance from other writers, she can’t stand looking at more words on pages at the end of the day. Still, I managed to finally finish this book that has been around the house for many years. I’d picked it up soon after reading Angela’s Ashes many years ago, which I read after seeing the movie because Robert Carlyle was in it, and I will see just about anything with Robert Carlyle in it.
Teacher Man was lovely, as you probably know. I don’t need to add my praise to its accolades; I’ll just copy down some of my favorite bits.
On that teacherly sixth sense:
Teachers learn, too. After years in the classroom, after facing thousands of teenagers, they have that sixth sense about everyone who enters the room. They see the sidelong glances. They sniff the air of a new class and they can tell if this is a pain-in-the-ass group or one they can work with. They see quiet kids who have to be drawn out and loudmouths who have to be shut up. They can tell by the way a boy sits if he’s going to be cooperative or a great pain in the ass. It’s a good sign when a student sits straight up, joins his hands on the desk before him, looks at the teacher and smiles. it’s a bad sign if he lounges back, sticks his legs into the aisle, stares out the widow, at the ceiling, over the teacher’s head. Watch out for trouble. (p. 149)
This is the situation in the public schools of America: the farther you travel from the classroom the greater your financial rewards. Get the license, teach for two or three years. Take courses in administration, supervision, guidance, and with your new certificates you can move to an office with air-conditioning, private toilets, long lunches, secretaries. You won’t have to struggle with large groups of pain-in-the-arse kids. Hide out in your office, and you won’t even have to see the little buggers. (p. 157)
On after hours:
At the end of a school day you leave with a head filled with adolescent noises, their worries, their dreams. They follow you to dinner, to the movies, to the bathroom, to the bed. You try to put them out of your mind. Go away. Go away. I’m reading a book, the paper, the writing on the wall. Go away. (p. 183)
On his classroom:
I look at this collection of kids from all continents, faces of all colors and shapes, God’s plenty, this garden. . . (p. 131)
That bit above is pretty lovely: “God’s plenty, this garden.” Lovely reflection on teaching, along with the whole book, and maybe best consumed on sabbatical.
PS I have to admit I am drawn to that bit about the private toilets & long lunches, but I know that instead of dealing with large groups of pain-in-the-arse kids, administrators instead have to deal with large groups of pain-in-the-arse faculty. What would you choose???