Sandy Dennis in Up The Down Staircase has that slightly depressed look I associate with teachers. She plays an idealistic English teacher who cannot cope with her students in an inner-city school.
The photo of the nervous Sandy Dennis reflects my own doubts about teaching. My adult ed teaching started last night and I came home slightly depressed, totally worn out, as usual. In a sense what I’m doing is volunteer work but I’m doing it because I believe classics should survive. Although my students are middle-class, it’s a lot of work to stand up and write declensions and conjugations on the board and chivvy them along through Latin stories when–get this–one of my students in his fourth term with me claims not to remember my name.
“What is your name again?” He/she is writing a check. “Could you spell that?”
Yes, massa. Thanks for the check.
It’s not as though he hasn’t communicated with me by e-mail many times. It’s not as though he hasn’t stayed after class to ask for help with his grammar many times.
Incivility is, sadly, how the powerless exert their power. Insulting their teachers at evening classes.
Of course he knows my name.
But if you don’t like conflict you quit. It’s important to keep going. It undermines the increasingly business-oriented education system to teach a subject that has been cut from many schools. Over 60% of English words come from Latin and quite a few from the Greek. Homer and Virgil were at the heart of education until the 20th century.
Of course, it is amazing to see how much I’ve accomplished with this class in a year. I do believe most of them appreciate it.
Like them or not, I’ve taught them.
Here’s a clip from Up the Down Staircase. Not at all like my experience, but I appreciate Dennis’ acting.