I’ve never been a high-school teacher, but like most people reading this, I spent 5 years on the other side of it. And, like most people, experienced the entire spectrum of really good ones to really bad ones. But one thing they (and we) all knew; there’s an inherent power struggle between the teacher and the class, and it’s delicate. A teacher has to be very careful about playing that balance, especially as it’s twenty-plus students vs. one. Too strict or too mean, and they will lose the respect of the class. On the flip-side, too casual and buddy-buddy and they will also lose the respect… and control.
If you’re a teacher and you’re going to fail, it’s probably better to be over-strict and tough and not care what the students think. At least you’re likely to get results, and who cares about the bad-mouthing that goes on about you outside of class. I had many teachers who were that type. I also had a few, the best ones – who managed to skirt that fine line. They were friendly, relatable and fair… and received the respect due to them. They also got excellent results.
And then there were the few – some that lasted less than a year – that lost the class very near the beginning, and from there, they were doomed. There was no fixing it.
One such teacher that comes to mind was my grade 8 math teacher. He was new to the school, as were we all. But unlike all the other grade-8 teachers, this guy wanted to be our friend… and it didn’t take long for that to melt down, into an hour of anarchy every math class. Those 55 minutes were about 15 minutes of us all yelling “Boring!” in unison every few minutes, 15 minutes of him telling us to shut up… “Quiet guys. Quiet please.”, another 15 minutes of him handing out detention time, and maybe 10 minutes of actual teaching.
His technique for handing out detention was unique; he dished it out 5 minutes at a time. Every noise infraction would net someone 5 minutes, 10 if it was really bad, and he would dutifully write it down in a notebook before continuing to teach… only to be interrupted again moments later. And on Friday, he would read out the list of names and how many minutes everyone had earned. I’m not too proud to say that I was usually on that list, often near the top.
One particular day, we were playing rugby… this teacher had also managed to earn the coaching role for some of the grade 8s; the second and third-tier athletes. In my school, everyone had to play rugby, so… like the whole spectrum of great to awful teachers, there was also that spectrum of rugby players. All the way from world-class down to “he shouldn’t even be dressed to play, let alone out on the field”. I was somewhere in the middle, and on this day, found myself running with the ball, unimpeded, toward the goal line. I rarely found myself in that situation and was already celebrating in my mind… when, out of nowhere, I got tackled… hard.
I should add… in rugby, there is exactly one right way to play, and that is… hard. If you don’t go in as hard as the other guy, you will get hurt. This applies at every level, assuming everyone is pretty-much the same weight. There’s a reason why the world-class players are all monstrously large and very fit; they need to out-class the other guys. In fact, one of my classmates went on to play for the Canadian national team and then professionally, in France. He’s probably reading this, and if he is (hey Rich, what’s up), he’d tell you the same thing – you go in hard.
Except when it’s a full-grown adult vs. a 13-year-old. Said teacher probably could’ve taken a bit off the gas pedal… but he didn’t. And, so… instead of scoring a try, I ended up with a broken arm. It happens, and the teacher felt awful about it, but the rumour that made the rounds was that he’d done it on purpose, to sort of get back at me for ridiculing him in class so often. I don’t believe that for a second; he was a good guy. Too good to be thrown into the wolves with the likes of us, to be honest.
But… that cast on my arm earned me a bit of a free pass for a while. I didn’t change my behaviour in class at all, but when he’d spin around to dish out 5 minutes and see it was me — at that moment casually scratching my head with my broken arm, or making faces like I was in pain — he’d pause, roll his eyes, and turn back around. Until one day, either I overdid it or he’d just had enough… this was maybe 6 weeks later. He turned around angrily, and said something like “OK, Kemeny, that’s enough of this. That’s an hour.”
What? You can’t give me an hour all at once. That’s not fair!
Fair or not, he did… but, I should add, it did little to earn back any respect; from me, or from the rest of the class. He did not return the following year.
Like I said, there comes a tipping point when the respect is gone, and it’s never coming back. And so, as usual, as seems to happen with a lot of what I’m writing about these days, I look south of the border and am noticing something that perhaps is new; perhaps that wasn’t there before. A lot of people – who still have some — are losing respect for the sitting president. It’s important to make that distinction… there’s a huge difference between the actual president… and The Office of the President. This has nothing to do with Republicans vs. Democrats. Or the office of the president. We’re just talking about the man himself. Is he worthy of the respect he feels he’s earned? Worthy of a second term?
Trump is slowly losing his core… his unshakable supporters. After his niece’s book comes out, he’ll lose more. My personal view is that the U.S. can certainly survive another 4 years of a Republican-led government; Democrat too, for that matter. But what it perhaps can’t survive is another 4 years of Trump. The country is pretty fractured at the moment, and it’s telling that it’s taking steps to fix itself in spite of the president and his desires, not because of them. He’s lost the majority of the people, and the people realize what they need to do to fix what’s broken.
But healing takes time. My arm took two months. The U.S. will take years… but it needs to be given a chance.
For those who don’t want to see a second term, and can actually do something about it… and are politically strategizing their next moves… my advice: Go in hard. It’s the only way to win and not get hurt.