Wait. Or is it “lie?” As I lie teaching?
I always get confused on that point.
Today, I want to talk to you about the English teacher. Lord knows, it’s hard enough for the English teacher to get any cred, so I’m hoping a little bit of Unibrowed leverage will give you a moment of showing respect to the novel-assigners of our youth.
The English teacher is like a Tiffany lampshade. So full of color and intricate detail, charming and inviting you into a world of imagination and wonder.
The problem is, the world doesn’t have much patience for expensive lampshades. They all keep saying: “Yes. It’s very nice. But what about the bulb? Is there enough wattage? And the filament, too.”
But the English teacher keeps saying, “Yes, yes. The bulb is fine. But look over here how the vines intertwine to conceal these beautiful azaleas.”
“Yes, yes,” the world says. “It’s aaaallllll very nice. But is the lamp plugged in? What voltage? Is it a European plug or an American plug?”
The English teacher’s natural gift is language, which often comes as a surprise. Outside of the classroom, and outside of the written word, many English teachers are hard to communicate with.
“Wanna go out and party tonight, English teacher?”
“I’m going to have some tea at home, thanks.”
“What do you think of the current Republican presidential nomination kerfuffle, English teacher?”
“The political morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.”
“Mark Twain said that.”
See what I mean? It seems like an English teacher often knows things that most other people don’t deem worth knowing.
A gardener, though not paid as well as many state-sponsored English teachers, knows things which most people would agree are valuable. “When will those tomatoes ripen?” “How long before we need to re-seed?”
Answering these questions leads to ends we can comprehend.
Here’s something you can ask an English teacher: “What does Brian learn about his place in the world after the Cessna crashes in Canada?”*
An English teacher will actually know what you’re asking and will have a detailed, complex answer ready for you.
Everyone else will wonder: Who is Brian? Why did the Cessna crash? Why do we care?
After all, planes will crash. To people like physical therapists, convenience store clerks and investment bankers, these are events which merely happen.
To an English teacher, they might come to represent the eternal paradox of Man’s relationship to his machines.
See how exhausting that is?
It’s much better to just think “shit happens.”
In an English teacher’s world, the notion of shit happening can be broken down into at least three topics:
What is that shit comprised of?
Who made the shit and why?
What will the existence of this shit mean for future generations of shit?
There are more shit questions an English teacher could make you answer, depending on how far along the human age continuum you have progressed.
Also, an English teacher might show you ways of researching shit, accurately and fairly reporting the shit research you did, arguing different shit positions based on manipulating people’s logical and emotional reactions to shit, constructing an insightful shit thesis or some very complete-sounding conclusion to all this shit.
So next time you see an English teacher, give them a long, slow hug.
While you go to your jobs that make sense, the English teacher sits in a room with your children, explaining shit to them that will be valuable — indeed vital — to their lives.
The children will leave class having learned how to be more articulate, more embracing of complexity and nuance, more acutely aware that a lot of things will need to go wrong in their lives before they actually think that doing such a strange thing as becoming an English teacher would be a smart thing to do.