Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I'd Be A Horrible Teacher

I am in the process of training my co-worker -- an older gentleman -- on the afternoon duties at my job. I have never really had this responsibility before at any job I've ever had at any time in my life. I am almost certain this has to do with the fact that my social skills are inept at best, and downright retarded at the worst. But it is now my duty to make sure this guy can fill in for me when I go on vacation. He's picking up the afternoon stuff just fine thus far, but that's not what this post is about.

This little training session reminded me of a question I get every single time, without fail, any time I reveal that I have a degree in English. That question, of course, is "What did you want to do with that, be an English teacher?"

The answer every time, of course, is a resounding "no."

If I wanted to be an English teacher, I would have become one. I imagine getting a license to teach isn't all that difficult, and finding a job isn't too much harder... if you don't care where you teach.

But my reasons are a little deeper than that. Namely, I would be horrible at it. Let's look at the reasons why.

I'll start at the beginning by saying that I coasted through grade school -- a private one no less, so no blaming the public school systems! -- and high school. I didn't have to study for anything. People in my classes always asked me, the awkward, quiet kid if they could copy my work. Naturally, I obliged because I didn't really care. (And maybe because I secretly wanted more friends.) The reason I had it so easy is not because I'm really smart (this would be disproved in college) but because I'm apparently really good at remembering shit. With years of reflection, I still believe this to be the key to succeeding in school, at least through 12th grade: rote memorization. With standardized testing being the norm in our great country, I don't think this has changed any since I was in school.

This would not be a good way to be a teacher, as my solution to the problem of someone not knowing something is usually to just give them the answer. Even when I was school, concepts were of no importance to me. I was told 6+4=10, and I couldn't care less why it equaled that; I just remembered it was 10 so I could move on to the next one. This is obviously not a good way to teach anyone anything, and would only be setting those poor kids up for failure, even if the little bastards would score highly on state tests under my tutelage.

I mentioned my lack of social skills before, and they would also come into play here. I was explaining to my co-worker how to use the mail metering machine and FedEx online, and during the course of the conversation, I could feel my voice getting hoarse. It occurred to me that my throat and vocal cords hadn't been used like that in some time. Hell, my own girlfriend hasn't heard me talk that much, but I'm supposed to get up in front of a bunch of kids for 50 minutes at a time, 6 times a day for 180 days? But it's not even the physical limitation that bothers me; my body would get used to it.

The real problem is that I very rarely have anything of substance to say to anyone, much less a bunch of strangers. And even when I do, I have a whole hell of a lot of trouble actually saying it. Isn't that kind of what teaching is? Let's not even get into my impatience for stupidity or my ability to get bent out of shape over the most trivial things. I would be fired in the first week after some smart-assed punk mouthed off to me about how "boring" Shakespeare is.

Shakespeare brings me to the final point, which is curriculum. If I were to take a job at a local high school, I would have to "teach" what the state wanted me to teach. Most of the shit you read in high school is boring as hell. I thought it was then, and if I were to revisit it now I would probably feel the same way. This, not-so-coincidentally, is the same reason you don't find me being a copywriter or technical writer or writing for any publication that will have me: when it comes to writing, I am not a whore. I won't write whatever you tell me just to get my name out there. Nor can I bring my heart and soul -- which I think is the strength of my writing -- to soulless renditions of procedural manuals or reviews of bands that I couldn't give a shit about. Fuck that.

It is no secret that when I didn't care about something when I was in school, whether grade or high school or college, that I didn't apply myself. This is why I nearly failed my final math class in high school, or my foray into the Spanish language in college. This is also why I would fail as a teacher, because if I think "Romeo and Juliet" is a piece of shit (I don't, but stay with me) it will come across to my students. I could never fake interest in a subject.

Not that you are, but if you were wondering what my syllabus would be for a high school English class, it might start with these books: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Cash: The Autobiography by Johnny Cash, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, and Leaving Las Vegas by John O'Brien.

Essentially I think I would be the Craig Counsell of teachers. He's been a member of two World Series-winning teams; I got mostly good grades in school, specifically in English. He is thought of as someone that just knows how to play the game the right way, without any flash; I may not have a good understanding of the human condition, but I know that it is the force that drives good literature. But in the end he's more than likely going to take his walks and play adequate defense, but will end up hitting .230 and drive in 20 runs. Not someone you want to put out there every day -- last season excepted -- but a decent backup.

I should not be a teacher of any sort, not even a substitute.

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