For the most part teachers are lay low and go with the flow people. Even when they are abused and misused, they tend to keep their mouths shut and go quietly about their business. It’s not that they are spineless or apathetic; it’s about survival. In a world that regards teachers as a “dime a dozen,” teachers have learned staying under the radar helps ensure job security. Most teachers have a spouse and children at home who like having a roof over their heads, food on the table, and Walmart clothes on their backs, so teachers are reluctant to cause trouble since keeping their job is a must. Also, for the majority of teachers, teaching is not just a job. It is a profession they enjoy immensely and would like to continue until they retire, so they do whatever they need to do or roll with whatever they need to roll with to make it to retirement.
However, even people who need job security and love their profession can be pushed to a breaking point and snap like an over-wound rubber band. Fortunately, patience is a key teacher characteristic, so although they may go home and cry themselves to sleep and drive their family crazy with uncontrollable hysterical ravings, teachers seldom snap, and when they do, they rarely go postal. They are more likely to push back by showing up at school one day decked out in tennis shoes, jeans, and a V-neck tie-dyed t-shirt that displays ample cleavage. If they snap with a parent, they might get really bold and say something like, “You’re right, we wouldn’t want to do anything to over stress your sweet baby, so I am going to tear up that old nasty assignment and give him an A,” or “I don’t know what I was thinking with such overly high expectations. That was really inconsiderate of your child and your family on my part.” Such patronizingly simple jabs tend to slide over the heads of many parents or flow unobstructed through one ear and out the other, which for teachers is frustrating and job saving at the same time. Teachers would really like to say, “If you would make your child get off his butt and study, neither one of you would be so stressed,” or “Obviously, my expectations have exceeded you and your child’s functional intellectual capacity.” But, after years of practiced constraint and civility, teachers don’t say what they really would like to say because they like and need their teaching job.
Teachers might be brave and rebellious enough to openly “dis” the faculty dress code, but telling a parent what is actually on their minds would be a stretch even for a teacher who has snapped. Teachers might think it, but they are not geared to be directly confrontational, so they bite their lip and walk away. They are very selective about the battles they fight, which are generally very few. They are much more likely to unload at home than they are on the job. However, God in his infinite wisdom provided teachers the perfect opportunity to unload on the job – RETIREMENT! Retirement is the emancipation of a teacher’s soul and spirit. Once they say the magic words, “I am retiring,” IT IS ON! At that point, it becomes their choice whether they remain docile and polite or let their hair down and go for the jugular. What can the establishment or parents do if a retiring teacher speaks his/her mind – FIRE them? Well, maybe, but it is not likely. However, after years of engineered submissiveness, few retiring teachers exercise the freedom to tell parents what is really on their minds, but if they did, it might not be strange to hear them say . . . .
- Yes, I need volunteers in my classroom, but not you;
- Your child is at a stage of his life where he must decide on a career or prison;
- Your child needs me more than I need him;
- Sure, your child can take the test over if he does poorly. How about this time next year?
- What is the best way for you to help your child with her classwork? How about stop texting her during class?
- I agree your child is not a bully. He’s a predator;
- Why did I give your child an F on his test? Well, instead of grading on a traditional Bell Curve, I decided to grade on a Color Curve, and your child was wearing the wrong color that day;
- Your child’s inability to pass is not a teaching problem. It’s a DNA problem;
- Like you, I want what is best for your child, and it is best for you to take your child home and never bring him back here again;
- I believe homeschool is the best option for you and your child since I don’t believe I have ever heard of anyone failing homeschool;
- I was very impressed with your coloring on your child’s project; and
- Go ahead and call the superintendent. He and I had a great discussion about you and your child last night over at couple of beers at Chili’s.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on the side of the creek where you stand, retiring teachers are not likely to utter any of these. They might be able to get away with saying such things, but a teacher who has spent twenty-five plus years doing what is right for kids is not likely to display such an acid tongue. With very few exceptions, retiring teachers will continue to bite their tongues and talk with kids and parents as they always have – with compassion, understanding, and class. Why? That is how teachers are made.
©Jack Linton, PhD January 9, 2016