English teachers get a bad rap.
When I meet someone for the first time, they usually cringe upon learning I had been an English teacher. This especially happens with men on first dates.
The general public consensus, with a few exceptions, seems to place English teachers in the first cousin category to the caricature of librarians…that we are rigid, have dull grey hair pulled back into severe buns, dress in frumpy clothes, carry red pens and rulers, re-read Jane Eyre every year and wear glasses.
I know a few — very few — English teachers who actually do re-read Moby Dick and Jane every summer break. I have no idea why.
But the rest is simply not true. Ask any principal. It’s typically the English Department that gives administrators the most headaches, second only to coaches but they’re a breed apart from classroom teachers and don’t count.
Of course, English teachers are also the most innovative, the most creative and the most endearing of all teachers. That last descriptor was provided by English teachers.
I’ll share an example that was repeated over and over and over again.
I used to train schools all over the nation in emergency responses to a man made or natural crisis, often to an active shooter. In that case, I always had a local police chief or subordinate there to answer questions and nod his head approvingly, which I knew he would do because (a) he had approved the training, (b) he was scripted and (c) he knew I’d do him great bodily harm with my red pen if he went off script.
Typically, a district would pull as many teachers, classified personnel and administrators as possible into a gym or theater. There could be fifty or a couple thousand in the audience. The superintendent would then cross his or her fingers, say a prayer and, relinquishing all control, turn things over to us for an hour.
It was critical to break up the rather intense training with humor in order to bring down the anxiety, so we had funny tidbits seeded throughout the presentation.
The final component was on evacuation and pat downs, a touchy subject for teachers worrying about kids being patted down. If necessary, law enforcement does pat down everyone being evacuated in order to ensure that the evacuation area is secure and weapon-free.
I’d tell the true story of our first active shooter simulation, when 600 students, teachers, classified and administration were evacuated and everyone got patted down.
The kids were all interviewed as part of the assessment. They all reported that the pat down was simply not an issue; the officers were all professional and courteous.
We did, however, receive numerous complaints from female teachers who thought the pat down could have been much more thorough…
(pause for nervous laughter and side glances of did she really say what I think she just said?)
…primarily from the English Department.
At which point, the entire room would break into wild laughter and applause, knowing full well that it was the absolute truth. We could always count on at least a couple female English teachers jumping up and doing a little oh yeah, baby, come and pat me down!! dance.
I rest my case.