An English Teacher

I grew up wanting to be an English teacher. OK – maybe it’s a bit strange, but there it is. When I was in seventh grade I had an incredible teacher. I have a hard time remembering her name; Mrs. Brown comes to mind, but I’m not sure. I can still see her and remember how I idolized her. She was a tiny women with hands gnarled by arthritis and a rasping bark of a voice. She was a tyrant in the classroom and I loved it. I came alive in her class. I learned. I learned about outlines and drafts and rewrites. I learned about searching for the perfect word. I learned about being clear. I think that she’s responsible for me being able to survive the dissertation process.

Another English teacher, this time in high school, reinforced my love of reading. Miss Connelly encouraged me to read widely and taught me to begin to judge what I read and stretch. I turned in an extra-credit book report on a trivial book only to have it returned, accompanied by a long discussion on how to tell great literature from trash.

Oh – and then there was Broadway. Does anyone remember Bye Bye Birdie? If you do, you probably didn’t walk around singing this for years:An English Teacher. Of course, I was the English teacher, not the English teacher’s wife:

You were going to college and get ahead
Instead of being a music business bum
You were going to NYU
And become an English teacher
An English teacher, an English teacher.
If only you’d been an English teacher
We’d have a little apartment in Queens
You’d get a summer vacation
And we would know what life means
A man who’s got his masters
Is really someone
How proud I’d be if you had become one
It could have been such a wonderful life
I could have been Mrs. Peterson
Mrs. Albert Peterson,
Mrs. Phi Beta Kappa Peterson,
The English teacher’s wife!
Albert:
Oh Rosie, I told you as soon as I get a few bucks ahead…
Rosie:
You said it before, Albert!
And along came Conrad Birdie…
And it was goodbye Jeffery Josser
Hello William Morris
Goodbye NYU,
Hello all ALMAELOU
‘Cause when you wrote Conrad’s first hit
Agha-bagha-boo
Then I knew that was it
You were through with English
Forever…
An English teacher is really someone
How proud I’d be if you had become one
It could have been such a wonderful life
I could have been Mrs. Peterson
Mrs. Albert Peterson,
Mrs. Phi Beta Kappa Peterson,
The English teacher’s wife!

I did get two Masters at NYU, though. I also discovered exactly how tall high school students are and what a poor disciplinarian I was. I didn’t even last a week before fleeing to the safety of pre-school. Still, my love of reading remains. Those early influences on my writing remains. My respect for teachers gets stronger every day.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *