A good Internet friend of mine is a lawyer by the name of Yale Hollander. He writes a weekly column for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat that takes a rather whimsical view at news in general. His column this past week covered the realm of Internet friendships, but he and I get our kicks recounting our tales of adventure when we head over to Walmart and observe humanity at its most abnormal. People may sneer at the retail giant, but I find the sociological implications of a visit to be generally highly entertaining. However, there's days like today where I loathe Walmart for the same reason.
I dropped into a local Walmart to pick up some lunch items, and as I was pondering whether to buy sliced medium cheddar cheese or the sharp variety when someone I went to high school with literally bumped into me. When they apologized, they realized who I was and commenced to catching up on lost times. I have to admit that I was ambivalent at best, but I was polite. It went a bit like this:
Old Acquaintance: We're taking our kids out of public schools after this year. I don't know if you know, public schools are getting bad. Worst of all are the teachers. They don't care about their students' well being; all they do is try to brainwash them with nothing but nonsense! What kind of people would do something like this.
Me: *nods politely*
Old Acquaintance: But enough about me, what have you been up to?
Me: Erm, I'm a public school teacher.
Old Acquaintance: Oh. Well. Erm... I wasn't talking about you, obviously.
Me: Of course not.
Old Acquaintance: Well, I've got to run. Nice meeting up with you!
If there's one thing that really eats me alive, it's how my fellow evangelicals love to throw us public school teachers under the bus for everything. As far as they're concerned, we're a bunch of godless Commies whose only goal in life is to brainwash everyone into a bunch of atheists. Never mind the fact they base this on half-truths and worst case scenarios, not to mention there are plenty of teachers who go to their own churches. Then when you mention the fact you're one of those horrific creatures, they don't know what to say.
The other incident was when I was headed to check out. Because I live a good distance from where I teach, I rarely see my students out in the wild. So to see one in a Walmart so far from their home was a bit surprising. I saw them down an aisle, so there was no way for them to recognize me. However, what I saw absolutely broke my heart, as I saw their mother absolutely verbally undress them in front of everyone in the store. I couldn't quite figure out what it was for, but the tone was nightmarish, and the vocabulary used was even worse.
As I stood there for what felt like an eternity, a couple of things passed through my mind. The first was that this is what I hate about my school to no end. This was just another reminder that a lot of the problems my students have stem from what they go home to every day. No matter how much some of them get under my skin to the point I want to tell them exactly what I think of them and the decisions they make, I would never verbalize these feelings, much less use such obscene and crude language to get such an ill-thought point across. It doesn't take much of a leap to think that this was far from an isolated incident, and my students have to put up with this on a daily basis. Considering the damage that I've had to fight through and currently walk with just from some innocuous statements said at some bad times in my life, I can only imagine the kind of hurt my kids walk with into my classroom.
The other was the fact I wanted the old acquaintance I just met up with to hear what was going through my head at this time and dare them to tell me to my face that teachers do not care about the students under their care. Even if I didn't want to, the homes my students come from compel me to care about them because no one else will. If I don't care for them, their chances of making something out of their life becomes almost nil, ensuring another generation of children being subjected to continuous hurt and humiliation. I do what I do because my students deserve something better than what they have--no matter what some people may think of what I do.
Until next time.