I finished Among Schoolchildren (Tracy Kidder) this week. As much as I have acknowledged how difficult a teacher’s job is, and how much of emotional investment and hard work is involved, I think I still picture the classroom of the 1950’s – the teacher at the blackboard, with well-groomed, well-behaved children who sit in rows of tiny, clean desks, their hands folded and eagerly awaiting directions. And this is my image even though I was observing 8th graders in the Alternative Certification program last year at this time, even though I have 2 kids of my own and even though I can’t even manage to teach my non-native speaking student to say “I can’t come to the library tonight.” (she couldn’t make it last night and still had to have prompting from one of her kids when she called). I like to think of teachers being like Miss Honey in “Matilda” or Anne Shirley in “Anne of Green Gables” a real literary representation of the “school teacher.”
Mrs. Zajac’s students came to school with big problems and she wasn’t able to help them all. But she was able to inspire and teach quite a few to enjoy learning. Her preoccupation outside of school with the kids’ problems was touching. It must be emotionally exhausting to have all those kids’ problems running through your head all the time. She referred to herself in the third person like, “Mrs. Zajac is giving you back your homework. It’s not the best you could do.” It’s bizarre when people do that. M doesn’t like it.