Sunday, January 22, 2006

Losing Pieces of Myself

Like many teachers I know, I received a copy of Frank McCourt's Teacher Man for Christmas. McCourt describes his experiences as a teacher in the Manhattan public school system, and some lines are painful because they make direct contact with my own experiences and insecurities. I thought I'd share one passage that made me blush out of amusement, embarrassment, and confusion:

"In the high school classroom you are a drill sergeant, a rabbi, a shoulder to cry on, a disciplinarian, a singer, a low-level scholar, a clerk, a referee, a clown, a dress-code enforcer, a conductor, an apologist, a philosopher, a collaborator, a tap dancer, a politician, a therapist, a fool, a traffic cop, a priest, a mother-father-brother-sister-uncle-aunt, a bookkeeper, a critic, a psychologist, the last straw.

"In the teachers' cafeteria veterans warned me, Son, tell 'em nothing about yourself. They're kids, goddam it. You're the teacher. You have a right to privacy. You know the game, don't you? The little buggers are diabolical. They are not, repeat not, your natural friends. They can smell it when you're going to teach a real lesson on grammar or something, and they'll head you off at the pass, baby. Watch 'em. Those kids have been at this for years, eleven or twelve, and they have teachers all figured out. They'll know if you're even thinking about grammar or spelling, and they'll raise their little hands and put on that interested expression and ask you what games you played as a kid or who do you like for the goddam World Series. Oh, yeah. And you'll fall for it. Next thing is you're spilling your guts and they go home not knowing one end of a sentence from the other, but telling the moms and dads about your life. Not that they care. They'll get by, but where does that leave you? You can never get back the bits and pieces of your life that stick in their little heads. Your life, man. It's all you have. Tell 'em nothing."


Blogger DougW5 said...

Wow. Too late for that.

You heard me after class today telling how the vast majority of teachers could care less about the students. Having 130 kids is rough, but having 130 friends whom you get to see everyday is better than 130 instructees.

Having 2 friends is better than 130 coworkers. Let the student who wants to talk with a teacher outside of class come to you. Be receptive. If it's too much, take things one at a time and don't worry. If it's something serious, forget about the other students and devote your time. Because it means alot to them. I don't know how many people dump on you outside of our little Post-Kakos Party Series, but I bet it's not 130. Chances are good you'll get maybe 10. Lets see, Jeff (who could probably care less), Ian, (who could probably care less), Han (who could probably care less), Jason, (who'll probably read this and is much more of a softie than he lets on), Molly, (who won't tell me whether or not she cares), and myself, who strives for any intelligent conversation, regardless of the source, and does care. So there's at least one person who you've made a difference to by merely allowing some of yourself to slip through the facade of a ruthless grammatician.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Ashley M said...

Ms. Kakos,

I think that when you share about yourself, we see you as somebody more like ourselves, and not what we thought a teacher was when we were in elementary school, you know, that they live at the school, sleep under their desks, and never, ever leave to lead real lives. I've come to talk to you many times, and I feel comfortable doing so, and in high school, it is so hard to find a teacher who is willing to take a time out and listen to their students when they need to talk. I get the impression that some teachers only care about what they are teaching, and not what the student's are going through. The teachers that care about their students are the ones that will be remembered and cherished as the students grow up, get jobs, and start a family. By sharing what is going on with you, we feel more comfortable sharing what is going on with us. You should never, ever change how you teach your class. By relating more to you, we are more willing to listen because we see you as somebody we can talk to if needed. I really love how you are always open to us. Please, don't ever change.

8:27 PM  
Blogger MollyG said...

I personally find it great to have a teacher who is willing to get to know us on a personal level. Having a teacher who simply drones at us about something we hardly care about then leave is pointless. Education is much more than simply acquiring information. If that was the only purpose, then we could just take home a book or take a computer course and probably could have graduated by now. But we don't. As I've said before, we appreciate having teachers who actually talk to us, as opposed to at us. I recently read a very relevent quote. "Sometimes we put up walls. Not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to knock them down." Adolescence is the age of walls. People have to find themselves at this age. We test everything, secretly looking for support, but afraid to ask for it. That is part of what a good teacher is. Students don't go to parents, and friends are just as inexperienced as we are. Teachers have an amazing ability to remember what youth is like, and that can be exceedingly useful.

9:15 PM  
Blogger shamitap said...

Ashley said it perfectly. You are the only teacher I have and have ever known that is so willing to talk to us about everything going on in our lives. Thanks for listening. I feel a lot better knowing that at least one of my teachers is there to listen and cares about something other than what's going on in class. That's what makes you so different from other teachers. You really value us as teenagers, and not just as students.

Also, this personal blogging is so interesting and I need to set mine up but I have no clue how. Help!

11:14 PM  

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