I recently experienced an awesome and somewhat startling revelation. And it doesn’t even have anything to do with how to chop onions without crying or the best way to clean a soiled linen tablecloth if you’ve had the bright idea that it would be educational to let the children eat at the adult table, or even a new and economical way to cook Brussels sprouts so that everyone likes them.
This is an actual revelation from life experience. Not the kind of life experience that other people have and submit to women’s magazines for fifty dollars, although if I had a really great Brussels sprouts recipe that would actually cause people to eat them instead of hide them under the potatoes, I would certainly be willing to accept fifty dollars for it. My revelation is a great discovery that came about when I was talking with my niece who is an actual elementary school teacher. Upon the occasion when a child in her class had an unexpected and thunderous attack of gas in the classroom, she, the teacher, wanted to laugh. She did NOT laugh (out loud), but it took an episode of strict self-discipline and positive reinforcement to maintain her composure.
So it turns out that teachers are people just like you and me. Well, maybe not like me, because I’m still convinced that they can add numbers in their heads and figure out the answers to story problems without looking up the answers.
If one example isn’t proof enough, listen to this. I work at a church in a job which, unwise as it may seem, I am expected to do math. I am responsible for writing people’s paychecks and for paying taxes to the government, which is a pretty tricky procedure owing to the fact that the government is very particular in believing that you should pay them the right amount. Oh, they don’t really mind if you go overboard and send them buckets of gold, but short them by a doubloon or two and they’ll charge you interest.
Anyway, the first thing my employer did after he witnessed me thrashing my way through frightening things like bank reconciliations and trial balances; well the first thing he did after he regained consciousness, was to provide a helper, a mentor if you will, to guide my little ship through the deep and storm tossed waters of fund accounting. And this helper was, if you please, a teacher, and not just any old teacher, but the wisest owl of the lot—a college professor who instructs others in the art accounting! And can you imagine what this most venerable of all educators said the very first time he saw me perched on the edge of my chair at the computer, attacking the evil forces of fund accounting with a shredded bank statement in one hand and a computer mouse in the other? He sat right down and said, “Let’s make a back-up just in case we make a mistake.” A mistake! He allowed for a possibility that, even as a team (And this is a man who is smart enough to grow tomatoes and corn and other yummy things without having to give them all to overzealous crows or neighbors.), we could conceivably forget to carry an integer and get in trouble with the IRS (I Require Supervision) people. I expected the heavens to open up a send down a dove that very second. He sat with me patiently and kindly day after day and, even though he developed a disturbing habit of slamming his right foot to the floor like a driving instructor trying to stop a runaway car, he never gave me a failing grade on a day’s work. And he brought me tomatoes.
And if that kind of compassion isn’t proof that teachers are human, there’s not an equation in the world that would do the trick. But I can’t help but wonder if he has a good Brussels sprouts recipe.