Call me old-fashioned, but when I was in school, I sat up straight, looked directly forward and made damn sure I didn’t pass any notes or shoot any spit-wads. The last thing I wanted to do was “hit” on any of the girls- the consequences would be certain and somewhat harsh – A rap on the hands with a ruler or worse. Physical discipline was the norm, and there were no thoughts of suing teachers; if a teacher at school smacked me, I got it much worse when I got home. There was a sort of begrudging respect for teachers even though I didn’t care much for them – mainly because they didn’t seem to care about me; they were there to teach and not much else. On looking back, it seems a little sad that my teachers couldn’t have been more empathetic and less stoic – and in my case, not so old. There was one teacher thought that was different, fresh out of college, stylish and beautiful; it was the one class that I couldn’t wait to get to; everything she did impress me – her voice, clothes, perfume, and style – it was like something out of a movie. I found myself day-dreaming — well, dreaming a lot. Eventually, I got through junior high and moved on, and a couple of classmates caught my attention but not before my one grand gesture – my one great attempt to express my “appreciation” for this teacher – I gave her an apple. This may sound corny, but I didn’t dare give her candy, flowers or anything remotely suggestive- I wouldn’t have chanced it. It was way too scary then.
Schools are different now. There are rules upon rules, litigious parents, the need to accommodate every culture and the constant pressure on schools and teachers to produce super smart kids. Teachers and schools are judged on percentiles, and these results impact test scores and even funding — and yes, apart from pure academics, teachers are different; they are just as smart, but they seem much more empathetic and caring towards their students; they interact more and at times, become a friend and a teacher. As single parents are running more and more families, teachers face new issues and pressures apart from actual teaching. As we have seen just in the last few weeks, matters can get out-of-hand quickly when teachers stray from their traditional roles and get too close to their students. Jennifer Fichter, Eric Beasley, and Erin Queen were all charged with illegal sexual conduct with their students as we reported in the last few weeks (They are presumed innocent). The consequences can be severe- loss of teaching licenses, possible prison, sexual offender registration, submission of DNA samples for starters. In each of the cases, consent was given by all parties; however, because special laws pertain to teachers and students, the acts were criminal. While sexual relationships between teachers and students are probably not the best thing, we owe it to teachers to provide more guidance, and where necessary, counseling on these matters and not judge them so harshly. Another thing that has changed over the years among people is their willingness to “tell on someone.” In my case, had it not been an apple, I wouldn’t have snitched.