by Ted Taylor
Professor Business Communications, Chestnut Hill College
Act II Board Member
Author, The Glenside Kid
Tony Braithwaite’s new play at Act II Didn’t Your Father Have This Talk with You? is right on the money. It is especially appropriate for anyone who ever stood in the front of a class and looked out on a sea of anxious, if sometimes clueless, faces.
Now in my fourth decade as an educator – classroom teacher for at least half of that – I understand the nuances and the innocence of students who are trying to make sense of their lives.
While I never taught religion and sex ed (I did teach phys ed for awhile) I get how the personal aspects of learning about sex could, of course, trump everything else. This would be especially true for young males.
In junior high we got our sex ed out of books – like “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” for example. Handed around from guy-to-guy this book automatically flopped open to the good part (which ran just a few pages). “Peyton Place” was another sex ed vehicle, and it, too, explored the seamy side of sexuality. We wondered, was there another side? Kids in those days had a hard time picturing Mom and Dad “doing it.”
We had classes in health and hygiene and they were about as sanitary as could be. Sex? It never came up. I knew kids in their early teens who still believed in the stork.
Like Tony, I keep track of the goofy things that happen – student-to-teacher. A few would include a recent class where I had a student simply get up and leave, saying “I got to go.” When I asked them, the following week, why they hadn’t cleared the early departure with me before class the answer came, “Well, I was late so I couldn’t ask you.” So the excuse for leaving early was coming late. You can’t make this stuff up.
Opening day of classes in a three story building a new student approached me and wondered on what floor Room 304 would be found. I took a wild guess and said, “The third floor.” The kid smiled and thanked me.
A year ago we had to move my class from one building to another – for just one class – because of a heating problem. The sign on the door said, “For tonight only we’ll be in Room 311 in Martino Hall.” For the next three weeks one student kept showing up at the Martino Hall location, hanging around for a half hour, then going home. He figured no one else was coming.
I had a student get up and walk out of class – I assumed he was going to the men’s room – and then return ten minutes later carrying a steaming bowl of chili. Stunned I asked, “What’s this all about?” he replied, “I was hungry.” He and the bowl of chili got exiled to the hallway.
Higher education is the only commodity where you pay for something and then are thrilled when you don’t have to do it. A snow flurry in winter starts my phone ringing hours before class wondering if school is cancelled. When I tell them I have no clue, but I plan to be there unless there is a blizzard they are disappointed.
I give L’s for being late (you get 15 minutes) and O’s for failing to be prepared in class or fail to turn something in. If you get four or fewer during the semester your class participation grade is an A. A semester ago a kid got 36 of them; guess what their participation grade was?
One kid came in a half hour late for the second class – we had moved, permanently to a larger classroom. She said, “Am I gonna be marked late? Cuz if I am I’m leavin’.” When I said she got a pass for that night because of the change in rooms she decided to stay. I’m not so sure that was a good thing.
Being a teacher is no day in the park, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had. You get to work with people. You get to help them become more than they are. The rewards are many, but the best one comes when a successful student takes the time to thank you for being there for them.
Tony gets it in the play; teacher’s everywhere get it too.