Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Hey teach! Take one for the team





I don't want to sound like an old fart, but the teachers who meant the most to me would never think of "taking a pause" because they were at war with the government.
The teachers I loved came out to help us with our plays, our sports and our committees. They helped us put together yearbooks and bought our cupcakes.
There were always a few who did nothing and it was clear to the kids that they didn't give a shit about them. We repaid them in kind by pranking them and humiliating them.
What goes around comes around, you know?
Some of these teachers didn't deserve it. I remember a theatre teacher who had a terrible drug problem and another who committed suicide. They had issues alrighty, like everybody else.
But then there was Dennis Tuff, the audio-visual teacher who helped us set up a television station at West Park Secondary School back in St. Catharines. Denny saved a lot of kids.
If it weren't for Denny, more than a few of them would have gone sideways.
Mr. Osgan mentored me, helped me in start a school newspaper which gave me the journalism bug. He also put me on to some crazy literature and visionary non-fiction. He knew I was a poor kid so he let me babysit and paid me well for it.
There were many more teachers, some we didn't like, like Rudy Wheeler, who put our technical high school on the map, by turning pantywaists into athletes and making ours an elite rowing school. He was a tough asshole, but he got results.
Some of the teachers would simply stay after class to help with homework or just to talk. We had good principals and vice-principals, too.
The teachers cared about us and we cared about them.
And it made a difference.
There will always be good teachers, the ones who will bring a sandwich for a kid who is hungry, teachers who spend more time with the kids than their own families.
But in my most recent brushes with teachers -- the ones I played tennis with -- I wasn't impressed. One teacher in my group -- a typing teacher -- was only interested in planning her time off. She used to daytrade on the stock market and take "sabbaticals" from her very important job.
All summer, she would bitch about the government until we finally stopped playing with her.
If I had her as a teacher, I would have dropped her course.
Others bragged about their plan to double dip, to take their lucrative pensions and make a hundred bucks a day supply teacher. They threw it in our faces that they had gold plated pensions when some of us were struggling to make ends meet.
Not all teachers today are assholes. A lot of them still care.
I have teachers in my own family, dedicated teachers who would give their students one hundred percent of their time and effort. My brother Gary won an Ontario Principal of the Year Award a few years back for his work with inner city kids. He was, still is, passionate about his job.
But I fear that Gary is the exception these days, an old school guys with the right values, the kind of person you want mentoring your kids.
I hope money won't turn Ontario teachers into box-checkers and clock watchers.
I fear it might.
We all are feeling the pinch. Some months, I care barely afford to pay my rent. I don't have a pension or a big salary. So I have a hard time feeling sorry for teachers, especially the ones on the tennis court who have made it so obvious to the rest of us that they were better than us.
I have some advice, meant with all good intention.
Take one for the team, teach.
Remember: what goes around comes around.

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