School is boring. The assignments are a drag. The work isn't relevant. There's not enough free time. No one respects privacy anymore. It's hard to stay awake during class. Parents won't let up. Homework ruins social life. Getting ahead is impossibvle. Who needs it anyway?
That's a summation of how teachers sometimes feel about school.
Yes, believe it or not, we hardened, humorless slave drivers who never seem to tire of watching you students work are, shall we say, bummed out by it all at times. A teacher puts on five performances a day every day. That's a lot to get up for.
While you can go for days, weeks or maybe even a whole year without having to perform in front of the class, the teacher has no such luxury. And while your performance may be limited to answereing a question orally or taking a test every so often, we are on stage for hours daily, playing before a tough crowd -- a crowd that's used to entertainment.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not asking for sympathy. Like most teachers, there's a lot I enjoy about the job. At the top of the list is the relationship with students. But in order to foster a relationship that makes learning easy and enjoyable, I -- frankly -- must fight at times against boredome of irrelevancy and routine.
The show must go on, but it can be tough going if there's a passive audience staring back at me. Success in the classroom -- for teacher and student -- depends on participation.
Think of it like this: When you go to a concert, the group performing responds to the audience. When you start clapping, singing, hootin' and hollerin', the performance becomes livelier. You're putting more into it and the group responds, so you winds up getting more out of it.
I'm not, of course, suggesting that you stomp and shout and knock yourself out in the classroom. But you might make school less a bore for you -- and for your teachers -- if you try to:
Be polite . While "ma'am" and "sir" aren't necessary, try using "yes" instead of "yeah" and "no" for "naw" or "uh-uh." Politeness is becoming so rare, if you use even a minimal amount you'll stand out.
Use neat personal habits . This means that during class you should refrain from clipping your nails, (fingers or toes), chewing tobacco, cracking gum, combing your hair, putting on makeup, eating or drinking. The sights, smells and sounds afforded the teacher at the front of the class are enough to sour the best-planned lessons. How would you feel if your teacher, say, were spewing tobacco juice while lecturing on isoceles triangles?
Ask and answer questions . Without trying to sound like either Cheech or Chong. Raising your hand is a nice gesture, though most teachers welcome a sincere, spontaneous blurting out. In any case, be direct and specific, showing the teacher you at least know the general topic being presented.
Be sensitive . Asking wise-guy non-sequiturs like "What time is it?" in the middle of a discussion could encourage teachers to lobby for corporal punishment in the schools.
Remember assignments . Write down instructions when they are first presented. Looking foolish means being the only person in the class mumbling, "I didn't know the paper was due today."
Prepare assignments neatly . Teachers often receive 100 papers when assignments come due. Many of them look as if they went through at least four wash cycles. If yours is one of the few on the unwrinkled paper, written legibly, and containing a minimum of cross-outs and spelling errors, your teacher will feel guilty slopping it up with red ink.
Turn assignments in when due . Once teachers burrow through a stack of papers, they enter into a kind of (temporary) euphoric state. Nothing brings them down more quickly, or more startlingly, than confronting the unexpected: more work in the form of your late paper.
Remember the little things . Pens, pencils, note pads and books. Teachers often associate preparednesss with caring, an inccorect assumption perhaps, but one that can work to your advantage. If you must borrow, do so discreetly. Avoid erupting with "I don't got a pencil" just as the rest of the class is beginning an assignment.
Be tolerant. Yes, some of the teacher's "jokes" will be corny. Sure, many teachers can't afford to dress in designer fashion clothes. Of course there are teachers who think Frank Sinatra was the last great singer and Clark Gable or Betty Grable the last movie sex symbols. And stories of The War, grandchildren and trips to Europe can get boring.
But if you show some patience -- even some curiosity -- a teacher's tales might be interesting. And there could be some reciprocity; the next time you ask to discuss "The Wall," a teacher could realize you mean Pink Floyd, not China.
Rethink 50 minutes . How long is that class period, really, compared to your projected lifetime?
A former student, bound for an exclusive college, said toward the end of her senior year, "It's been so easy to get along in high school. All you have to do is study a little and be a little ingratiating toward your teachers."
There's a lot to that.