Saturday, 5 December 2009

Why Teachers Hate Us - Joan Lennon

School visits ... a strange, draining, exciting adjunct of writing for children. There are lots of things I find difficult about them - nervousness, getting lost trying to find the school, sweating (though, seeing I'm apparently a lady, I should say glowing), finding out that yet again nobody thought to tell the kids to bring money in to buy books, feeling like a wrung out dishrag afterwards. That sort of thing aside, I really love them. I love the high. I love having contact with kids in that intense, incredibly-focussed way. I hesitate to say I love being paid, even though I do - how about I like being paid? I love being called Joanlennon (all one word) and being told that some kid has read my book 5 times and another kid now wants to be a writer when they grow up and, even, that some kid has an Auntie in Canada. (The assumption tends to be that because I was born there, I'm sure to know her.)

Basically, I love feeling loved.


For the most part, children and adults alike are enormously generous about making visiting authors feel like that. More than the most part. But every visiting author will also be able to tell you stories about the exceptions. The teacher who sits at the front marking while you do your talk. The teacher who introduces you saying, "Pay attention, this lady's going to tell you how to pass your exam." The teachers who sit at the back chatting to each other in those whispery voices that carry so much better than ordinary talking. The teacher who just sits there, arms folded, glaring. My personal favourite was the time the teacher answered her mobile phone during my talk and started to discuss lunch plans with someone. When I looked at her, more than a little gobsmacked, she went out into the hall. Which left me alone with her class. Which we've all had drummed into us is illegal ...

Oh, how they get under our skin, these teachers! Why, oh why, we cry (well, at least, I cry) don't you love me?

I don't know. I'd really like to hear your theories. The floor is yours - tell me why you think some teachers hate us. Will it help to tell the world your worst ever school visit story? If so, here's your chance. Think of it as therapy.


Though I've found that chocolate also helps.

Joan Lennon's website


12 comments:

Charlie Butler said...

An unworthy thought flits through my mind to the effect that some of them are writers manque, but I expect that most are simply too stressed out, or too unimaginative, to think about how you might be feeling. Also, they probably think of having a writer in as a bit of time off in which they can catch up with other tasks, of which I'm sure they have many. None of these are excuses, and I agree that most teachers aren't like that at all, but them's me suspicions.

Lost Wanderer said...

Maybe because some of those teachers are probably wanna-be writers, or they think that by using creative license writers ruin the strict grammer rules they try to hammer into kids. Or they are just jealous that kids like you better ;)

adele said...

Someone once said they hate us because we can leave at four o'clock and they can't!

Leslie Wilson said...

As a teaching student, I had my most difficult class after a visiting drama teacher. It was the day the Man from the Department of Education in Oxford came to see me teaching. The kids were high as kites and didn't at all want to settle down to French, and the Man was horrified. I was utterly humiliated. I think that was the day I realised I didn't want to teach in a school. Incidentally, I was supposed to be an embryo German teacher, but it had been impossible to find me a school locally where German was taught!
Nowadays I'm the one who comes in and excites them. Maybe the poor teachers who get them after me find them impossible, who knows?
Having said that, I've had largely excellent experiences in schools - with one exception, who I will not name.

Linda Strachan said...

There are probably loads of bad experiences in schools we could relate but for some reason these stay in our minds and outlive the GOOD experiences.

I think it is a bit like book reviews, no matter how many good ones you get it is the BAD ones - or even slightly critical ones - that stick like a splinter in your soul and refuse to be removed!

I know SOME teachers are impossible and thoughtless and at times very rude (and to think they are supposed to be teaching the children manners!), but others are amazingly enthusiastic and their classes are well prepared.

Sometimes the problem is just a lack of thought about what it is like to be a stranger in their school (or staffroom - don't get me started...) when it is part of the everyday routine for them.
I also think teacher training colleges would do well to have something in their courses about how to get the best for your class out of an author visit - and to let these young and often very enthusiastic trainee teachers know that authors who go into schools need to be paid for this WORK. It is not 'just for fun or to promote their books' but part of OUR working day. (Saying this after an 11 hour day recently spent travelling to do two 1-hour sessions!)

Farah Mendlesohn said...

Off topic, but wanted to tell you that I loved Questors.

Anna Bowles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Bowles said...

Thank you, Blogger, for destroying my last comment... Anyway, what I said was that I mostly work as an editor, and on the occasions I've been involved in hiring there are a lot of applications from teachers desperate to change career. These go straight into the rejections pile. So there must be a lot of frustrated teachers out there who find it hard to be sugar-nice to authors et al.

Joan Lennon said...

Farah! How could anybody saying they liked a book of mine EVER be off topic? What a very nice thing to hear!
Cheers, Joan.

Wendy said...

I think a Grade 1 teacher on my very first school visit summed it up: "Wendy writes books just like you do but she gets paid a lot more!"

I suspect a lot of teachers don't understand that doing an hour stand up performance (often after a couple of hours of travel) is different to teaching an hour in a regular day – so they resent us swanning in, talking about writing books - (something they're planning to do when they have the time) and of course imagining the squillions of dollars we get from those books.

Then of course there are the delightful teachers who can't wait to meet you, who have introduced the kids to your books, and generally make you feel like a superstar!

Quite apart from the difference to the author, there's no doubt which type of teachers' kids get more out of the visit!

MJ said...

Please come visit my school. I promise you'll leave feeling loved and appreciated!

Nishant said...

because some of those teachers are probably wanna-be writers, or they think that by using creative license writers ruin the strict grammer rules they try to hammer into kids. Or they are just jealous that kids like you better ;)

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