Happy Teacher Appreciation Week; And I Mean That
So here it is, Teacher Appreciation Week, and while I could make snarky comments like:
 So could we appreciate the teachers a little bit, in the amount of one (1) restoration of collective bargaining rights in several states? – including my own?! Who’d have guessed that Massachusetts – the People’s Republic of Massachusetts – would possess a Legislature featuring Democrats who would vote to pull a quiet Scott Walker on public unions? This is a post for another time, but here’s a preview: find out the name of each and every Democratic member of the Massachusetts Legislature who voted that way, after being partly bankrolled by the various public unions, and pledge to vote to replace them with someone who will represent their constituencies rather than the corporations and the rich.
 I just hope Teacher Appreciation Week isn’t another of those holidays or recognition weeks invented by the greeting-card companies so they can make more money. I like the idea of Grandparents Day or Administrative Assistant Week, and I have benefited from the kind attention and efforts of both grandparents and administrative assistants (not to mention Arbors and Patriots)… but lip service looks a bit more like lip service in the current climate. See paragraph 1 above, I guess.
… I won’t do that. Instead I shall tell a story in which I was, by turns, grumpy, guilty, and a little cheery.
Part One: Our Hero (for our purposes, let’s pretend that Our Hero is me) teaches music for the first two days of Teacher Appreciation Week and finds that he has experienced quite a taxing couple of days full of children who, while well-meaning (most of them), are having a tough time even listening to the end of a set of instructions, never mind processing them and acting on them. This is the middle school thing; I get that. Sorry: Our Hero gets that. But when one is up to one’s keister in crocodiles, one forgets that the objective was to teach dynamics. Or however that aphorism goes.
Part Two: Our Hero arrives at home, leaps onto the local social networking website, and unleashes a tired status post to this effect.
Part Two-A: Our Hero almost instantly wishes he’d taken just one more cleansing breath, because he feels kinda guilty about mouthing off in this way. The teaching game is a lot of things, but garbage collection or ditch digging it is not. So, Our Hero is beset with internal voices that clamor, “You teach music. You’re not even a ‘regular classroom’ teacher, so when your students have success it sounds like beautiful music rather than numbers on an MCAS results printout … so can you shut your yap for ten seconds and appreciate your lot in life?”
Part Three: Our Hero climbs back in the saddle on the third day of Teacher Appreciation Week. First thing in the morning, right out of the gate: grade 7 and 8 chorus, whose collective ability to listen to anything (instructions or anything outside their own heads) is appropriately at the grade 7 and 8 level. Our Hero reminds himself of this, and is all over them like a cheap suit ONLY to the extent that it will encourage them to sing pretty and be prepared for the Great East Festival performance that is looming on the horizon like, well, like whatever it is that looms on the horizon but isn’t actually life-threatening or anything.
Halfway through the rehearsal, one of Our Hero’s grade-8 charges raises her hand (instantly acquiring Most Favored Student Status) and declares, “Mr. Hammerton, you haven’t said your favorite phrase today.”
Umm… what phrase is that? Oh yes! Listening Is Good! … Not the right one?
“No,” she says, accompanied by three of her friends, “the one about the eyes.”
Oh! Oh, I guess I do say that one a lot. The one that goes, “give me your eyes!” Which I tend to say when the children are staring at the walls, the ceilings, each other, the note they’re about to pass across the back row… The one that I (and a legion of other teachers) have of course appropriated from my favorite college band director.
“So go ahead,” they practically sing. “Say it!”
Deep breath, dramatic pose, tolerant look on Our Hero’s Face: “Gimme your eyes!”
And a hail of objects come from several directions at once, all aimed at Our Hero. Most of the grade-8 singers have taken pieces of white paper, crumpled them into ping-pong-ball-size lumps, and magic-markered eyeballs (and sometimes thin red blood vessels!) onto them.
They’ve given me their eyes, all right; delivered via air-mail. And they giggle. And laugh louder when I throw several eyeballs right back at them.
No, Our Hero didn’t get that group of singers back for five whole minutes … but yeah, okay. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.