Friday 17 September 2010

Buddy is a teacher

A belief that Barry often reiterates is that teachers will not, cannot be told. This is a direct result of having been married to me for harumphety-humph years. A teacher is autocratic, accustomed to controlling his or her own small universe – the class! For my husband, teachers are a caste apart – they are poor listeners (I’m not!!), think they know best (obviously we do!) and never allow adverse criticism. This is why OFSTED inspections are so painful!

Parents who tell us we’ve done wonders with their child/ren are welcomed with beaming smiles and open arms. Those who are less happy are clearly deranged. To be honest, it is challenging for teachers working in isolation (apart from 20 to 30 pupils – and I used to have nightmares about the whole class revolting – no, some of them were repulsive ;-/ – rebelling against my feeble attempts at order and discipline . . . )  - I repeat, it is difficult, nigh impossible to be objective about one’s performance.

So, okay, the infants have ignored your instructions/advice/tutelage to refrain from licking each other, your shoes, the windows, the floor, but you’re doing your best. They won’t sit down, they keep sitting down, they won’t talk to you, they won’t STOP talking to you – in short, they won’t do as you ask/ cajole/bribe/order them to. You might as well be talking to yourself. It’s my belief that retired teachers of very young children are easily spotted because they chatter away to themselves, regardless of other people. You know they’re not using mobile phone earpieces –teachers are accustomed to the sound of their own voices and are not really interested in what their fellow humans may have to say.

Having exhausted all avenues of communication and feeling extremely foolish after trying to demonstrate what is expected – the infants, mildly interested for a few seconds, stare bemusedly with fingers in mouths or noses or other orifices, their own or another’s and then wander off to pursue different activities - a few teachers give in and let the children play all day, claiming that some spurious research validates this method of teaching. Others decide to leave the profession and take up a formerly despised nine to five job where the work can be left behind at the end of the day. Yet more will never give up – it’s the long holidays, you see.

If you are one of the stayers you cannot admit that the atmosphere in your classroom is NOT GOOD ENOUGH so you blame the weather – too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy. Then you place a layer of guilt at the parents’ feet – too strict, too lenient, too inexperienced, too old to cope, too pushy, too complacent – but that doesn’t work. Next to assume the mantle of culpability are the rest of the staff – Mrs H lets them do as they please, Mr K shouts at them, Miss W doesn’t like them, Ms Y works them too hard. No, no good there so the last one almost the last one to blame is the headteacher – she doesn’t know half the children, he never comes into the classroom, she babies them, he patronises them, why can’t she take a class occasionally? When you finally accept that none of the aforementioned can really be responsible for the absence of harmony and authority in your room (all the other rooms are deathly quiet or have what teachers like to refer to as ‘a working hum’ – the hum is often not just in the noise, either, but that’s another story!) there is really only one person whose shoulders must bear the burden of condemnation and that is yourself, at which point, according to your temper temperament, you weep, shout, laugh, swear (but not in front of the children) or storm out, never to return.

Now I had not meant to go off at this tangent, or indeed, any tangent at all. Suffice it to say that I should never have gone into teaching. I’m not very good with children. I couldn’t do anything with the four I gave birth to so expecting to cope with other people’s offspring was a given no-no. I should have been a librarian or a shelf-stacker or a postwoman – healthy life that, with all the walking and the heaving about of heavy sacks in all kinds of weather.
I said that Buddy is a teacher and maybe he was one in a former life. His attitude is that of any this teacher. He’s very independent and quite fastidious and definitely always knows best. He’s an old boy now and needs a little assistance to go up and downstairs. Sometimes his back legs go into a position, parallel to his body, where he cannot use them to lever himself to his feet. During the day he alternates between garden, sitting room, kitchen and conservatory. I don’t need a keep-fit regime – I’ve got Buddy. When he’s in the sitting room his chosen bed is the three-seater settee, suitably draped in a succession of colourful throws, for ease of cleanliness. He prefers to have a clean couch. Whether or not he is able to ascend his throne is governed by a number of factors:

1:  Has he had a sufficiently long run-up stagger-up?
2:  Are the settee cushions settled firmly on the support? (they should be, I put them in place a hundred times a day!)
3:  Is there a mat next to the settee so that his paws don’t slip on the wooden (laminate) flooring?
4:  Has he got the balance right so that he can lie down where and how he pleases? (This morning I heard him grizzling and when I investigated he’d pushed open the patio door with his super-strong nose and attempted the ascent of the sofa but slipped and landed half in and half out of a dog basket. He was stuck there like a stranded beetle, though not on his back, so not really like a beetle at all.)
Sometimes Buddy cannot quite manage the last push and a gentle touch on his harness gives him the confidence to continue the clamber onto his bed. That is quite acceptable to him – after all, we both know he’s done most all of the work himself. On other occasions, thinking to help, I will lift him onto the settee and settle him down. As soon as I leave his side he’s climbed off again and determined to do it all by himself – and he does. Just like a teacher, see? Won’t be told, won’t be helped – I’ve just realised why, actually, this very moment. He was born under the sign of Aries, just like me, so he shares with me all the characteristics of that stubborn animal. So, Buddy isn’t a teacher – he is a Ram!


  1. My daughter's a teacher, but has superpowers when it comes to 'reading' children (and their parents) and keeping in control of both! She decided at the age of five she wanted to be a teacher, and is still going strong!

  2. Thank you thank you thank you!!
    You've just explained my biggest problem. I've been bashing my head against this particular brick wall for the past nine years.
    Late in my life, I married a retired teacher, thinking to have a companion in my old age instead of, or in addition to, a motley collection of cats and dogs.
    I talk to him. He doesn't answer. He does NOT answer. He decides whether or not my remark or my invitation to conversation DESERVES an answer. If he, in his own mind and without saying anything to me, decides it does NOT deserve an answer, he gives none.
    I scream.
    "What's the matter with you?" he might (or might not) say. Sometimes he doesn't even reply to the scream.
    "You didn't answer me," I plead.
    "It wasn't necessary," he says, convinced that he IS RIGHT. Oh, you nailed that one for me. He is right, and everyone else is wrong. Never mind that I've been an adult for more than 40 years, so I'm quite blatantly not a fifth-grader.
    If he does decide to answer my conversational ploy, it is usually to tell me I have it all wrong. He never says, "That's interesting" or (especially) "You're right." He always says the opposite.
    And I've never understood why, until now.
    Like you and Buddy, he's a teacher. Like you and Buddy, he's an Aries.
    And I, a chatty Sagittarius, have to talk to myself or to the dog.
    Oh, wait, he has started replying lately, now he says, "I can't hear you. Stop mumbling!" because he doesn't have a hearing-aid. He's still shopping for one at "the right price" and is willing to drive for two hours to find it, but in the meantime, it's my fault because I mumble.
    I must stop screaming. It doesn't help and it gives me a sore throat.
    Alberta, Canada

  3. That's the problem here!
    I married late in life so I'd have someone with whom to talk, because dogs and cats, however much they loved me, seldom repl.
    Companionship in my old age and all that.
    But I married a retired teacher. When I talk, HE decides whether or not my remark DESERVES an answer.
    "You didn't answer me," I say.
    "I didn't need to," he says.
    I cry.
    When he does reply, it is to correct me. He never says, "Good point" or "You're right" or "I never thought of it that way"! He presents the other side of the argument, an argument that didn't exist until he pointed out where I'm wrong.
    I scream.
    Or: "You didn't ask a question. If you ask a question, I will give you an answer."
    He's a teacher. And he's an Aries. Now I know what's wrong.
    Of course, he talks to the dog. And I talk to the dog. The dog doesn't answer, which makes HIM happy. Makes me want to talk to a human. One who has never been a teacher.

    Alberta, Canada

  4. Funny about teachers and their dispositions. There's a lot of truth there, albeit exaggerated a little bit.
    I can see Buddy as a teacher. Interesting that he wants to do things by himself, even when he probably needs some help. But then, I guess we all want to remain independent.

  5. Thank you all and Kay twice ;-)
    I have exaggerated a little - my children would dispute that I couldn't do anything with them and my grandchildren seem to quite like me ;-)
    Jinksy - some teachers are born and your daughter is obviously one of them.
    Kay - give him a few more years. My husband has definitely tempered my tendency to 'teach' all the time - he just laughs at me when I get unnecessarily on my high horse.
    Janie - all animals can teach us a lot about life, and sometimes especdially the elderly ones.

  6. My husband and Your husband would get along together just fine! I know I'm a born teacher -- I have to teach -- it's the children that are the problem. Oh dear I should never have said that out loud! My classroom has to be quiet. I can't stand noise and lest you should think I'm very hard hearted I have to tell you, it is the children who are struggling or picked on that I taught for so many years.

  7. ChrisJ - I always had a quiet classroom too and I was strict. Most of the time I enjoyed the children and the teaching.

  8. After this waterfall I am sure you feel better ! I am still laughing about your teacher or teaching descriptions and the whole post !
    Buddy sounds to be like ALL my cats, stubborn, lol !

  9. I enjoyed this post, Janice. I began my working life as a teacher too, so I can relate. But I'm not an Aries, although I have a lovely daughter who is. :) So I'm quite certain Buddy (and you too) and I would get along even if he (and you) is (are) a Ram. LOL

  10. Gattina - thank you! All cats know that they are superior to every other form of life and so always know best!
    EG - thank you! I always think I really should be Taurus . . . ;-)

  11. I love this post!

    Interesting observations - I have to agree with some things because a friend of mine is a teacher and so help me sometimes I catch myself nearly saying 'yes maam' to her -- she DOES expect to get her own way and 'teaches' everybody who crosses her path LOL

    It's a calling, that's for sure, and a blessing to everyone who's had a good teacher, or even one that changed a life.

  12. Susan - I'm guilty of the same thing and even as I am being extremely pedantic I'm telling myself to stop it - trouble is, I don't listen ;-)


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