By Lynn Moncus
Although I rarely make much noise about my life as a teacher, I have never quit missing the classroom and the wonderful students I was privileged to have during those 34 years. I was very fortunate to become a teacher while ours was still a proud profession and while we still had the opportunity to teach and to learn freely.
Being a teacher of English caused me to practice patience early on, most especially when outside the classroom, because so many non students tended to remark that they were never good in English, didn’t like grammar, weren’t interested in literature, and would rather eat dirt than to write a simple sentence.
I guess they were trying to make some kind of impression, and they usually did after making their first grammatical error. Although I really wanted to correct them, I learned to smile and to go on about the business of teaching English to students. As a young teacher, I was probably more than a little critical of people outside the classroom because I lacked the humility to realize that most of them really didn’t like anything that had to do with English and certainly had no reason to be as interested in it as I was.
Fortunately, I had some excellent teachers who continued to help me throughout my professional career and who helped me to learn that much needed humility.
One outstanding teacher took the time to explain to me that teaching was not an ego trip and that I was no better than any of my students. She said I didn’t need to try to show my superiority just because I had a little more education than they. In other words, she hit me right between the eyes while telling me to get my act together. She pointed out that sharing that education was what teaching was all about.
She also commented on my being less critical of people not in the classroom and to correct only those who should be corrected, such as other teachers and people involved in communicating with the public.
Such remarks were most helpful and prevented a lot of unnecessary tension. All these years later, I may pause long enough to correct a former student or to tease a friend about some careless use of our language. I still yell at commentators on the radio or on TV, but I do that in the privacy of my own home while wishing I could speak to them in person about their having lost pride in the use of our language.
I am aware that the young ones haven’t received the traditional training that those of us in the over-the-hill gang received and pay less attention to their short comings than to those of older generations. After all, carelessness is worse than ignorance.
After all this rambling, I merely wish to mention that being a teacher of English was once a major privilege and that studying our language in all its forms still remains a major thrill.