Thursday, September 08, 2005

Molding young minds

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when my career was in a less than ideal place. Some might say it was no place, since whatever full-time job I had at the time hardly qualified as a career. It was at this time I had an idea, born out of frustration, little forethought, and the limited job prospects that are inherently implied when you have a degree in English literature.
I was going to be a high school English teacher, molding young minds, inspiring future generations, pulling in a regular pay check . . .

Thank God that idea never panned out.

First and foremost, being a high school teacher would have required standing in front of and talking to a large group of teenagers everyday. Saying I hate teenagers might be putting it a bit strongly. Individually, perhaps even in small groups, provided they are not too loud and can speak in complete sentences, teenagers can be, well, not delightful so much as say, bearable.

Put a bunch of teenagers together in one place, such as a high school that can hold hundreds of them, and it's a different situation. Teenagers are sullen, or obnoxious, or both at the same time. To be fair, I was never all that fond of large groups of teenagers even when I was one. As I've gotten older and matured, I've found myself more comfortable with adults, whether one on one or in larger settings. Put me near a group of teens, however, and I'm pretty sure I would still feel like a stammering, uncomfortable, awkward doofus.

And I'm sure that a group of sullen, obnoxious teenage students would be just as excited to have a stammering, uncomfortable, awkward doofus of a teacher as the stammering, uncomfortable, awkward doofus of a teacher would be excited by his sullen, obnoxious charges.

So the hatred of teenagers is a big mark in the 'I'm lucky I didn't go there' box. There's also the fact that even if I thought teenagers were as magnificent and splendiforous as sunny days and puppies' wet noses, I don't think I would actually be a very good teacher. I suck at explaining stuff, and the way I have it figured, teaching requires a lot of explaining stuff. If somebody asks me how something works, say a TV or a stereo, and I'll just point to the remote control a lot and mimic the pushing of various buttons until whoever I'm showing gets frustrated and figures it out for themselves. Likewise, I'm also really bad at giving directions on how to get to or from places. To begin with, I hardly ever remember street names, and when I do remember street names, they are usually not the right ones. And counting traffic lights and stop signs? I really don't bother with that. Just figuring out how to get someplace new on my own is a big achievement.

Hatred of teenagers and an inherent lack of being able to explain stuff coherently, I'd think that should be enough to make me happy I stayed out of teaching. Of course, there's also the fact that as a potential English teacher I'm really not all that clear on concepts like proper usage and the parts of speech. True, I am in the writing profession, but it's pretty amazing how far the 'Does it look or sound right?' rule will take you.

So, as we mark the beginning of a new school year, I give a hearty thank you to all those teachers out there excelling in a demanding profession. And we can both be glad that I won't be joining you anytime soon.


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