Back when us Baby Boomers were in grade school, no one knew diddly about ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, restless leg syndrome, peanut allergies, or had ever heard of a bike helmet. If during class you got fidgety or acted up, you went straight to the principal’s office. The lines drawn were pretty simple; sit still, shut up and listen and don’t give the teacher any trouble.
The teaching method back then was this: the teacher taught, the students sat still (or tried to) in their seats, folded their hands and looked straight ahead and gave the teacher full attention (or looked like it, anyway). No one explained much of anything to us; we were told to zip our lips and listen. When tests came around, the teachers found out who was listening and who was not.
Back then no one had a problem with what was called “corporal punishment;” that is, a spanking administered by the teacher if you caused any trouble in class. Parents were notified, and when you got home, you got punished all over again. I remember telling my parents that this wasn’t fair, and was told that the world isn’t fair and to get over it.
Teachers back then didn’t explain anything; you were expected to do as you were told. Questioning the teacher was not encouraged. At that time in history, we also had air raid drills. This meant that when a certain signal was given, we were all to get under our desks, make ourselves as small as possible and to cross our arms cover our heads. We were to stay there until given the order to get back in our seats.
I got in trouble once during one of these because I stuck my head out from under my desk to see what was going on. My teacher shoved my head back under the desk saying, “do you want your head shot off?” I had no idea who and what wanted to shoot my head off.
It took years for many of us in our generation to understand why we didn’t learn well because of what is now known as ADD or ADHD. So now we now know that some of us actually had something we couldn’t help or recognize that held us back. I see this both in myself and in the Crankee Yankee.
When we were kids, parents, grandparents and teachers (or just about any adult) were the word of law, and we were not expected to question them. I’m not saying that this was a perfect system, but that’s just how things were back then. Funnily enough, both the Crankee Yankee and I had the same comments on our report cards: “Would do a lot better if he/she stopped daydreaming and got down to business.”
When I was in college, I went for a teaching degree in English education, mainly because I loved reading and writing. I imagined myself as a teacher who inspired kids to also love reading and writing. Back then, this degree path meant that you didn’t get to student teach until senior year, so if it didn’t work out, it was too late to change majors.
By the time I was a student teacher, I found I really wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. The whole school system was still too rigid (or so it seemed to me), and new ideas in teaching were not appreciated. I realized that this was not the right path for me, and that I wasn’t inspiring any students to love reading and writing.
I suppose that I was trying to eradicate the teaching methods I’d grown up with, and was hoping to change the teaching world. I soon discovered it was too big a challenge for me, and I went into business instead. I became a technical writer and loved it. I realize now that this was actually my way of teaching people; instead of standing in a classroom, I wrote “how to” manuals.
It’s funny how some of us find our way despite our background and education. We may find that one or two teachers in our lives inspire us, and these teachers may not even be school teachers. They can be a friend, a relative, a famous writer, a doctor, a carpenter, someone we read about—whoever moves us in a positive direction is a teacher in their way.
A teacher teaches, and we as students of any age learn.