the circular runner

As We Get Older, We Stay the Same…OR do we?

In humor, life, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on March 28, 2012 at 5:47 am

Between undergrad and grad school I taught high school–Catholic high school, tenth grade history and world religions, to be exact.  I was excited at the time.  I had studied religion in college, so I felt like I could go into my classes and not be a complete wash-out. But it wasn’t long before I realized that Catholic school is the Church’s attempt to prove that hell exists.  How I didn’t know this going in is beyond me.  My interview was with a nun (who would be my boss) and a very effeminate, very “positive” man who worked with seniors in some capacity.  I don’t remember their names, so let’s call them Sister Margaret and Rick.  Sister Margaret was a sour-puss, a complete bitch.  I don’t think I need to say more, but I will say this: take those stereotypes of the most humorless, joyless nuns with their rulers at the ready and you will get this woman–except, in fairness, she was Chinese and not Irish.

Rick was another stereotype.  He was the recently married go-getter who somehow combined ambition and piety and a gleaming white smile; he also had a suppressed need to bed men.  OK, I don’t know if the latter part is true, and normally I couldn’t care less about who people want to sleep with, but there was something about Rick–something about the way he made comments about his male students in demeaning ways and then feigned goodness around the parish priest.  His life seemed like it was made with a good dose of duplicity–a quality I’ve noticed in men who are closeted.

Even if I’m wrong about Rick’s sexual preferences, I am sure that he was a brown-noser always looking to play the role of the pious goody-goody.  At my interview, he cleared his voice, paused and listened for the angelic harps to play, and then, looking over at Sister Margaret with all the deference he could muster, he asked me:

Gabe, will you speak to us about your spiritual journey?

What?  Spiritual journey?  Really? I was up for a teaching job and I wasn’t going to teach theology.  I was teaching history and culture.  I’m certainly not anti-spiritual, not by a long shot.  But man, you start asking me about spiritual anythings in public when I don’t know you, and horns start sprouting from my forehead and a tail starts growing out of my rectum.  Think 666, old school, KISS-loving, satanic.  Still, because I needed the job, I pulled back my inner Beelzebub and seethed whenever I was asked to share on spiritual matters, which would happen every week at our department meetings for the year I taught at St. Monica’s.

As you might be able to imagine, things did not end well for me at that position.  I was a good teacher, so I wasn’t fired, but towards the end of the year, I had a run-in with Sister Margaret over a student who she was judging with all the rigidity of her pre-Vatican II upbringing.  I will spare you the details.  My bigger point here is that during that year I came to believe we really don’t change much from when we’re kids.  Sister Margaret was probably always a lover of discipline and unyielding in her passion for rules; Rick was probably always a brown-noser with a good smile.

And I am no exception.  I know that I spent that year acting out of impulses that were already present in me as a child. I was never a rebel.  But I always appreciated a good revolution for the right cause.  The only time in my life that a teacher called my mom was when I led a revolt against my 8th grade French teacher, who favored sweet, obedient girls to such a degree that she always favored them over anyone else–even when those little sweet girls were something less than sweet.  Ms. Kushion-Rowe, if you’re out there, I’m still pumping my fists at you.  If you were a man, you’d be a cock-wielding oppressor; you’d be The Man holding brothers down.  No, that’s sexist.  Ms. Kushion-Rowe, you are The Man even if you’re a woman.  And if you’re still teaching, you’re still probably being an agent for oppression, injustice and correct conjugation.

But I digress.  As you can see, the rebel spirit still flows through me.  Which is my point.  As a teacher now, it’s ironic but I forget what I learned at St. Monica’s.  Working with supposedly bad kids, I focus on those elements of a person that can, if not be changed, then at least be adjusted.  Hating school isn’t really a character trait, I don’t think.  Or maybe it is.  I was a good student in school (my little rebellions notwithstanding) but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for those kids who can honestly call bullshit and not worry about the consequences.  A few of my GED kids are difficult people.  They don’t really want to work.  I don’t know why that is.  It’s not laziness.  It’s almost as if inside them lives a beaten old person who can’t take joy in anything.  I get annoyed by this type sometimes, but overall, even though they can be trying at times, I still like working with them.  The majority of my kids, though, are awesome!!  I love them because part of the reason they didn’t do well is that they couldn’t see the point in playing a game whose rules were stacked against them.  They went to crappy schools, with good or crappy teachers depending, and they couldn’t see the point.  SO they left.  They called bullshit and they’ve been calling it for their whole lives.

I’ll admit it. I don’t know if I really think people are unchanging entities.  It’s hard to make a blanket statement (even though I’ve been doing that for this whole post).  But one thing I can say is that me and my little group of GED students  are in rebel-heaven and Sister Margaret and Rick are in Catholic hell, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. Amen.

  1. I went to an all-girl Catholic boarding school for one year in hs (long story). Sister Gerald decided I was bad and set out to prove it. She had the face of a boxer and the temperament of a pit bull. She looked almost exactly like that picture you used in your post. She’d follow me everywhere I went, waiting to see the proof. I’d turn around fast and see the hem of her habit swishing around the corner. Of course, she succeeded eventually. It’s sad– she had such tenacity, such energy and dedication. Just think what she could have taught me if she’d tried.

    I say that people don’t change. Or at least I’ve never known anyone who did.

    Your students are lucky to have you.

  2. I have to agree..I’m still the same (inside) as I was as a teen..a bit more out-going, still the humanitarian.. Oh wait, I am abit more lippy (that means verbal) because now I clearly know rights from wrongs.

    this was a great post..
    Now about you? Don’t ever change!

  3. […] As We Get Older, We Stay the Same…OR do we? ( Share this:ShareFacebookLinkedInTwitterPinterestTumblrEmailRedditPrintStumbleUponDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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