110. “Bad Teachers”

I’m not as ready to label someone a “bad teacher” as I used to be. I never labelled anyone a “bad child,” and I’ve recently expanded that policy to include most teachers. I don’t think I have lowered my standards; I think I’ve decided that teachers, like children, want to do the best they can, and even if their best isn’t on a par with other teachers’ best, the comparison isn’t so important.
Maybe it’s because I’m retired, and the competetive mentality is gone. Maybe it’s because the retirement system has superannuated me, and with superannuation comes wisdom. But for whatever reason, I’m able to more clearly see the efforts teachers make, and not fault them as much for things I used to consider their faults.
For example, a teacher I heard yesterday said, “Boys and girls, would you please line up here?” Around 1972, I decided never to call my class “boys and girls.” I thought the phrase, though commonplace and accurate, highlighted a difference that was irrelevant to the situation, and made the difference more important than it needed to be. No teachers I’ve known have ever addressed their classes as “blacks and whites,” or “Jews and gentiles.” Perhaps I was making much ado about nothing, but I don’t think so.
But that’s not the point. The teacher who addressed her class as “boys and girls” may listen well to any child who has a concern. She may be able to explain things in ways that work for children who usually get confused by teachers. There are so many things to think about in becoming a teacher (I almost wrote “being a teacher,” but I don’t think it’s ever a fait accompli) that examining the implications of “boys and girls” (and agreeing with me after the examination) may not have a high priority.
I write articles, and hope that teachers will read them. I talk with teachers and express my opinions on issues that come up. As a volunteer, I try to model what I consider good teaching. But I no longer sit in judgment of other teachers as much as I used to. And you, vegetarians and meat-eaters of Wellesley, I hope you are doing it less. Most teachers are trying to be good at what they do.

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