This is the first part in a short series of posts on building relationships with students.

Do you remember the toughest teachers you ever had?

I do not mean the ones that held you to high standards in their field of study. Tough graders make accomplished writers, mathematicians, and economists, and typically have solid bonds with their students.

The tough ones I remember tended to be generally disagreeable people. Some were cold and acerbic; others were more brash and volatile. Some had the persona of Army drill instructors talking to bumpkins fresh off the bus, and sometimes those bumpkins were young teachers.

The Teacher as Tirant

My wife remembers one such teacher. This woman would spend the passing period between classes standing in the girl’s bathroom and shouting the time until the tardy bell rang. This was punctuated by pronouncements of the doom that would befall anyone who was late to class.

Her description reminds me of a particularly difficult family member in one British humorist’s Bertie Wooster novels. Bertie describes his dreaded Aunt Agatha as “the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth”

Detached and Dull

In the movie, Teachers, there is a character named Ditto (an old slang term for a copier). Ditto is a veteran teacher who has students hand out papers at the beginning of the period and others collect the papers at the end of the period. In the intervening time, the students all work quietly while Ditto reads the newspaper. That is the routine, day after day.

Ditto is so detached from his students that when he dies in class still clutching the newspaper, it is not discovered until after school is out.

Thinking back, I wonder if those tough teachers had any bond with their students. If, as I suspect, the answer was no, then how much did those teachers enjoy their jobs?

To me, without a bond between student and teacher, the job is not worth the hassles and limitations on income.

. . . to be continued

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