Another brick in the wall – We need to dispel a myth about oft-maligned teachers

They are not jealous of those ex-teachers who have left the sacred halls of education to seek vulgar, material wealth in the Gotham City world of commerce. So what if these traitors are paid monthly stipends that exceed what a teacher earns in a year? We class-bound martyrs say, what is money?

Our rewards are much, much greater. We are not so shallow. We barely even drool – much – when we hear of profit bonus rewards, and that car, and that skiing trip, and that holiday home, and that … Oh, would it be such a crime against the universe if teachers were actually paid enough to be able to replace the 12-year-old family car without touching the in-laws?

Many of those ex-teachers go into selling educational aids. And the avalanche of ‘try-me’ samples arriving at schools, like waste disposal at landfill sites, is approaching critical mass. Salespeople ready to demonstrate the next generation of apps, the barbarians at the gates, are queuing up worse than traffic at the N3 tolls at Easter. (Wow! Have I cornered the market on mixed metaphors or what?) These are aids to help learners. What about teacher aids?

As a young teacher, what I needed a whole lot more than the latest overhead projector marker pens was what I call (not wishing to be too technical) a Bladder-Full-Or-Not Screening Machine. Oh yes. A device – stay with me here – to detect and separate the kids who really, really need the toilet from the chancers. This device would be a bit like those handheld airport metal detectors. You would get the pupil to remove any water bottles or liquid containers from his person, then run the fluid-detecting device over the abdomen and if the bleeper screams loudly enough (corroborating the pupil’s crossed legs and crossed eyes), he is permitted to leave the room before a puddle appears under his desk.

Of course (like these modern ‘smartboard-y’, iPad-y type ‘goedertjies’– with all their ‘snappy appies’), not every teacher would want – or indeed, need – the device. My colleague, Ma’am Prymm, would have scorned it. She went straight to the source of the problem. One look from her and pupils tightened their sphincters so tight even a plumber’s shifting spanner could not have loosened them as she informed them that no bathroom breaks would be allowed.

If truth be told, a detector would have saved a teacher (any teacher – I’m not saying it was me) from the awkward situation of the puddle under the desk. It was beneath a boy (a reprobate with previous out-ofclass nefarious activity convictions) who had been refused leave-the-room permission. But, was it a real accident (mortifying to the pupil and therefore making the teacher guilty of insensitive cruelty)? Or was it fluid surreptitiously poured from a water bottle to make the teacher look bad? Confronting the pupil led to stout denial. The boy (with support from the class) challenged the teacher to prove his contention that the puddle was not a bodily fluid. Foolishly, the nowincensed
teacher (I did not say it was me!) unthinkingly threatened to test the fluid. His threat was defiantly challenged. Cornered, he felt he had to
go ahead.

In the resulting chaos, the delighted class gathered around to gleefully watch their teacher on hands and knees using a pipette to suck up a sample of the (alleged) wee from the floor for testing.

Let it be said that when this story was recounted in an after-dinner conversation, the reaction was an hilarious: “You don’t need aids – you need help!” Oh, and the result of the test? Water. But as one learns the hard way, in class, proving oneself right is not the same as winning.

Bruce Pinnock teaches at St Alban’s College in Pretoria, Gauteng.


Category: Winter 2014

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