Tony, 42, IT Systems Guy
So I used to be a High School teacher. It was sort of a fall back position when the liberal arts degree didn’t automatically lead to the Pulitzer prize. Being raised by beatniks and hippies gives you a certain level of optimism about how art will save the world and allow you to live a fulfilling life in which money appears somehow through the power of love and community.
One thing college did do for me was convince me I wasn’t going to end up a rock star or a famous poet and nobody was really running communes in the city anymore. I guess I could submit something about my band breakup, which was definitely harsh, but this story is only coincidentally related to that particular learning scar.
I eventually had to get a job doing something, and I decided to become a teacher, because that and the Great American Novelist was all I was trained to be. Funny thing was, when I got into the classroom, I loved it. I taught high school English and Social Studies in a school that had a mix of students from all economic and ethnic backgrounds. I put my heart and soul into the effort, and became friends with many of the students. They thought I was the cool teacher, and I wanted them all to get A’s. I tried to be the teacher that would reach and inspire every single one of them. The times that I did were better than any drug you could name; the feeling you get knowing that you reached someone and changed their life for the better is the most life-affirming feeling I can imagine. Although I gave up teaching years ago because it came down to getting a better paying job or not make my rent, I still feel the warm echo of the joy I felt when one of my students told me I was the reason they started to believe they could make something of themself and wanted to go to school and learn to be a doctor. It sounds corny, but I know that I have done something positive no matter what else I achieve in life.
During what turned out to be my last year teaching high school, I taught a particularly great group of students. As I usually did, I would divulge personal details about my life when I thought it would make a point or would help in some way. I mentioned that I had been in a band during college. One girl, whose name I think was Carla (give me a break, it has been many years) kept asking about the band and I mentioned I thought I had a copy of a four song demo tape we had recorded laying around somewhere. It was a cassette tape, and since I wasn’t going to be seeing anyone in that band again, it was the only copy I had of anything we had recorded.
So because you probably can figure out what came next, first you must ask why I didn’t dub a copy of it before lending it out to an irresponsible teenage girl? Or why didn’t I just play it for her in class or at lunch and then take it home?
Well, I didn’t. Maybe I thought that my classes were so significant to her that she would somehow treat the tape as a holy relic of her favorite teacher, or I am not sure what else. Either way, she lost it. She did eventually apologize, in what I thought at the time was a fairly half-assed way.
It reminded me of something one of my favorite teachers said to me after I became a teacher, which was that the way teenagers survive is by being the most selfish creatures on the planet. This was a teacher from whom I had learned almost all I knew about literature and critical thinking, and in whose class I had thrown up after getting drunk at lunch one day, and he still gave me an A because it had nothing to do with the quality of my classwork.
Either way, I still want my tape back.