Sunday, August 24, 2008

New School Year

I'm about to travel, and this time it's likely I'll not have regular Internet connections for almost three weeks, perhaps with an occasional interlude. Eventually I'll be back.

In the interval, many schoolchildren will return to school from summer break. (Not the Australian ones). So here's a short but true story I wrote many years ago, about an event that happened even earlier, back in the days when I was a brand new teacher. After this story took place, I continued to teach for the better part of a decade, proving thereby that when I eventually left it wasn't because they had beat me. They, meaning the rowdy Israeli high-schoolers I was confronting.

So here’s a story.

Once upon a time, when I was a very new teacher, first year actually, I had three classes. One was a class of 12th graders, highly intelligent, very arrogant, very tough to deal with and to control, and very proud of themselves for all this. The kind of class that I thrived on later on, when I knew my trade, but absolutely the wrong place for me to start. They tore me to pieces, spit me out, and had they been my only class that year it would have been the end of my teaching career. Then there was a class (or two?) of 9th graders. They were little, and new to the school, and we got along alright, and I have no memories of them. And then there was a class of 11th graders. They weren’t brilliant, but then nor were they particularly arrogant, either. They were unruly, as all Israeli high-schoolers have to be, but they were willing to give me the benefit of the doubt that maybe I had something to say if they’d allow me to say it, and we generally more or less got along. A chunk of each class went to discipline and riot control, but in most cases a larger chunk went into some sort of educational process. I learned a lot from them, and in the following year I went into my classes as a much more formidable challenge to the gangs.

Anyway, once day sort of near the end of that first year, perhaps in April, as I was leaving the teacher’s room and heading towards the classroom of the 11th-graders, the principle (headmaster?) of the school walked by me and announced that he’d be joining me in a minute or two, to see how the class went. That much warning I had.

Sure enough, shortly thereafter he came into class, to the great consternation of the rowdies. I began teaching, presenting a thesis and working thru it with the goons – who were all on their extremely best behavior. They responded to questions, they presented thoughts, they discussed the matter…. And after about 15 minutes the material had been covered. So I bullshitted for another 10 minutes, tying our material into what we’d done the previous week, and the previous month, and back in their kindergarten; I suggested where this might take us in the coming weeks, months, and years, and how it might be relevant to them as they graduated, went thru the army, married, raised their own kids, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren…. By now I was pretty desperate, since there were still a good 10 minutes until the end of the period, and what could I possibly still talk about?

Eight or nine minutes before the end of the period the principle got up and left, mumbling as he passed me on his way out that he’d enjoyed the lesson. 3.24 seconds after he had closed the door behind him, a great shout went up from the bastards: “We saved you, didn’t we?!? Weren’t we great!!??.

What could I tell them? The truth? That they had basically screwed me, but that by a miracle things had turned out alright?

The principle, by the way, never visited me in class again, tho I taught there for another seven years afterwards.


Anonymous said...



And, the best lesson belongs to the one the kids taught ya. "staying still" is no big deal. But when you're being judged, if you've made contact with kids, they'll do what's needed not to have you look like a jerk!

Of course these kids knew the principal could'a ripped you in pieces! Blamed you for not contolling your herd.

And, ya know what? I'd bet the majority of Israelis are just like these kids, here. Where Olmert is being torn apart by professionals.

And, most people remain well behaved.

Meanwhile, with the "boat of tourists" that were supposed to get to gaza ... why my goodness. Olmert has a feel for the media! He let them stew. He let them carry on. While the passengers found the waters a bit rough. Most got sea sick. And, then what? The Navy parted. And, the boats reached gazoo.

And, the entire media circus fell still. Had no story!

Kudo's to Olmert. Ditto to you.

OH, and the principal? Never earned the respect that should go to the guy who leads.

Sort'a like Bob Newhart, America's famous comedian, and stand up comic. He says he always plays the role of the guy who advances through the Peter Principal.

What's happened to our sense of humor?

I just hope at some time,soon, we can laugh at what passes, these days, for classroom material. AND, da' news.

Michael Wildman said...

Safe travels, Yaacov!