Monday, October 26, 2015

Breaking up is hard to do, when the teacher is doing it

I need to start a new topic for posts, which is “things teachers do that they shouldn’t do.”

Now before you overreact, these aren’t illegal things or necessarily unethical things.  These are situations and issues that a teacher really shouldn’t step into, or areas in which he or she shouldn’t intercede. 

For my first example, I tried hard to break up a couple that was in my yearbook class. I was only thinking of the greater good – the greater good of the class, that is.

Let’s call this couple Will and Krystle.  Will was a big waste of space.  He never completed work in or outside of class. His grade typically hovered at a 40.  The work that he did turn in was work he’d convinced someone else to “help” him with, meaning that he conned them into doing his work for him.  The person conned was usually another girl in the class, as Will tended to be both flirtatious and persuasive.

Krystle was a fair student, who got Bs and Cs.  Her boyfriend and her best friend were in the class, so she thought it was tons of fun.  I think her boyfriend dragged her grades and work ethic down, but she didn’t see it.  I wanted her to see it.  BADLY.

Krystle wasn’t really one of my favorite students, and yes, teachers do have favorites, although the good ones try not to make it obvious.  But she was MY student and as her teacher, I wanted the best for her.  I may not have been her parent, but often teaching is like parenting.  You care about the student and want desperately for him or her to grow and improve.  She couldn’t do that with Will around. 

I overheard Will bragging one time that half of the girls in the class were “into [him],” and that he didn’t have to complete any work because they’d do it for him.  The light went on in my head and I was furious.  I realized that Elizabeth, another student, had written his last assignment for him. Elizabeth was a freshman and probably had a crush on Will.  She was a good student and was eager to “help.” Now I realized why the text didn’t sound anything like Will’s writing.  

Krystle and Will had fought over his flirting, so I realized that I’d have to light a fire under Krystle to end the relationship.  The fact that Will would get dumped only played a tiny part in my machinations; I was only thinking about the GREATER GOOD.

I began by handing Will his work back when he turned it in and telling him loudly to redo it himself.  “This time, it needs to be your work, not Elizabeth’s,” I told him in front of Krystle.  Her eyes narrowed to slits and she glared at both Will and Elizabeth.

My next move was to call attention constantly to Will’s talking, particularly if it was to another girl.  This caused Will to complain that I was “mean to him” and led the two of them to have at least one argument in the hall.

“Ms. Marlowe, Krystle and Will are fighting a LOT,” another student named Isabel told me one day.  “It’s like all they ever do anymore.”

“Oh really?” My eyes got really wide and concerned looking.  “About what?”

“I think Krystle’s jealous about him talking to other girls,” Isabel said.  “But you know, he’s a player.  I don’t know why she’s with him.”  She rolled her eyes.  “I wish they’d just stop.  I’m tired of hearing it.” 

Since things were going so well, plan-wise, I did my best to fan the flames by putting them in separate groups for class work, with Will usually in one where he was the only boy.  I figured that if he was really a dog, she’d need to keep seeing the behavior and would eventually want it to stop.

That day came one glorious afternoon.  I was cleaning up in my classroom when Will stopped by.

“Ms. Marlowe, Krystle and I just broke up.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Will.  I’m sure that hurts,” I said, trying not to pump my fists and cackle.

“Yeah, well, she’s way too jealous.  I couldn’t put up with it.”  He shook his head.

“Oh, so she dumped you?” I asked sympathetically.  I didn’t really care who did the dumping, but why waste an opportunity to pretend to feel sorry for someone while twisting the knife?

“What? No, she didn’t –“

“I understand.  Really, I do, because you’re just in pain right now.  Go home, have a good cry, eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and you’ll feel better.”

“Ms. Marlowe, I didn’t get DUMPED!  No one dumps me!”

“I see.  Well, who said the words ‘we should break up?’”

“She did, but –“

“There you go,” I interrupted.  “You got dumped.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.  It’ll take you awhile to get over it.  The good news is that Micah thinks Krystle is cute.  The better news is that you now have an opportunity to complete your own work and raise your own grade!”

He looked flabbergasted.  “Ms. Marlowe, don’t you even care about what happened?”

“Sure I do,” I reassured him.  “But eventually you'll stop being sad and crying and –“


Will stomped out of the room angrily, and I went home feeling satisfied that I had accomplished my goal.  FOR THE GREATER GOOD.