In trying to understand why a certain student shut down on me without warning two weeks before the semester came to an end, it came to my attention that he likes me. What?!?!?! Thank goodness I’ll never get accustomed to that.
It was reasonable for me to expect some measure of attention from my students given their circumstances, mind-sets, and the fact I’m not bad to look at. I don’t often flatter myself or even think much about my looks. I’m not 16 anymore, and I’ve had two kids, but I had to consider this problem before I accepted the job. Even so I thought that my persona would minimize their attraction to me. Boy, was I wrong.
One by one their crushes reared their unpleasant heads. To keep from getting sick with disgust I usually ignore their attentions. Until recently, I considered each one individually, but something caused me to step back and look at the whole picture. And I laughed. It was that or cry. Maybe half of my students have expressed some interest in me. Fortunately I’ve only ever had to report one who clearly tried to “groom” me; everyone else knows better than to act on their feelings. Once in a while one drops a comment. After reading a newspaper article about a teacher sleeping with a student, my students had a number of comments, but one offender caught my attention to say, “I’d sleep with my teacher.” Well then. Twice I’ve been asked, “Would you have a drink if I saw you on the outs?” As if I even had to answer. The sheer number of puppy loves affects my classroom. I see that now.
Miss, look at me. No, look at me. Miss, they’re all stupid, talk to me. You’d think I could use this to my advantage. For instance, maybe I could sell them the breathless, dramatic, suspenseful punctuation mark we like to call the dash. I could tell them how manly and sexy I find the semi-colon, and how juvenile are exclamation points. I should tell them how a perfectly formed sentence quickens my heart and how an exquisite paragraph is more beautiful than a rose. I should be able to use this situation to my advantage, but I don’t.
Like a bunch of love sick middle school boys they stumble over each other to eek out a compliment, or better yet, a laugh. If they see how finishing their work helps them in their quest, then I see good results. On other occasions they withdraw for days at the slightest dismissal, like when I help another student. Some days I can feel the undercurrents of tension among them, and no one moves a muscle. As silly as it sounds, all this can effect their academic performance for the hour, week, or entire semester. What can I do?
What do they get from this besides more writing assignments? I don’t know. In their minds, I suppose, they count themselves momentarily victorious when I edit their essay or talk with them about the day’s horoscope.
I never expected to write about this uncomfortable dynamic of my job, an element I never dealt with in the charter school where my nine or so male students had 20 to 30 girls their own age to contend for, but this blog doesn’t count for much if I don’t tell the whole story as far as possible.