Teachers who didn’t care

Last year when I spoke with Mark Langill, the LA Dodger historian, about advice for students aspiring to work for a sports organization, he recalled the time when his high school English teacher helped him by nominating him for the school newspaper:

Mark acknowledged he was very lucky.

Not everybody is, however.

In my own high school, there was no teacher like that. All I encountered were teachers who didn’t care. Or not enough.

At the time, I was shy and timid, afraid of speaking. I was often unhappy. Not one teacher ever pulled me aside to ask me if everything was okay. Not one.

After I graduated and then completed my first year of university, that summer I was looking to volunteer my time at the Neil Squire Foundation, to help people with disabilities learn to use the computer. I returned to my high school to ask some of my teachers for a reference. Two of them laughed and said, “Shouldn’t you be looking for a job instead?” It was obviously a harmless joke. Yet, for someone who didn’t have the highest amount of self-esteem at the time, being laughed at for wanting to do something positive was deflating. If I had completed eight weeks at Neil Squire, I would have received a certificate. I left after six weeks, not because I didn’t like it, but ultimately I let those teachers’ remark bother me (ie. I chose to interpret the comment to mean, “If you’re not chasing money, you’re behind everybody else and you’re a loser,” or something to that effect).

But I want to go back to English class specifically. It was Grade 8. I had just immigrated to Canada two years earlier and was new. In Dickson’s English 8 class, I scored the highest in the first term. I know that because Dickson, an older gentleman who had no sense of humour and was always very serious, read out all the marks for the class. He read out each person’s student number and percentage. I listened attentively and heard that my 83% was the highest. Nobody else got that or a mark higher than mine. To my utter disappointment, though, Dickson never acknowledged who had the highest mark (me) and also gave me a B, even though nobody else achieved a higher score.

So, on two levels, I was disappointed. Dickson did not acknowledge me. He also chose to grade us strictly by the book: 86% or higher would be A. Anything less would not be an A.

When you have teachers like Dickson who did nothing to support or encourage you, it is very deflating. None of the other English teachers I had after that — Comey, Comeau, and Borgen — cared either. Borgen was a funny dude, but he wasn’t caring.

I haven’t even talked about classmates yet. There’s a big deal about how there’s Asian hate crimes, etc. Not to dismiss any of that, but even Asians were bullying fellow Asians. There was an Asian classmate named Kenny. My name has the word “Kok” in it (and hence I’ve now shortened my name to KP), and Kenny and his Asian friends were mocking me once. (Once out of numerous times.) I’m Asian. Someone made a joke about my name, and Kenny said my dad’s name was probably “Dick” and my mom’s was likely “Vagina.” So, when you have fellow Asian classmates who treated you like crap and teachers who didn’t care, things were very difficult.

There was one teacher who was kind — although she wasn’t someone who actually taught me. She was a teacher in the school but I never had classes with her. She might have seen my career interest questionnaire results and thought that I really wanted to be an accountant. (I didn’t.) I don’t know why she assumed I wanted to be an accountant, but I never told her that I didn’t want to. She approached me and started giving me advice on how to pursue that.

Our school counsellor was also caring. But again, she wasn’t my teacher whom I saw every day.

So, even though I’m a teacher myself right now, anytime anyone asks me about teachers, I give the straight answer — based on my own experience: Teachers care only about themselves.

Unfortunately, that’s true. At least based what I have personally experienced.

Posted on February 18, 2022, in Lessons Learned, Life, Life Lessons, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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