Teacher Misery perfectly encapsulates the comical misery that has become the teaching profession. Morris’ strange, funny, and sometimes unbelievable teaching experiences are told through a collection of short stories, essays and artifacts including real emails from parents, students and administrators.
Genre- Non-fiction, memoirs
My Rating- 4.5 Meows nearly purrrfect
The first thing I have to point out is the arrogance of the writer, who claims: “I have advanced degrees and know how to properly write and edit”, yet she starts numerous sentences with conjunctions, which I believe to be incorrect. I would not have even touched on this, since it is the only technical problem throughout the entire book, but the fact that she claims to understand proper writing and editing merited my nitpicking, but it’s only nitpicking. Oh, and all the rave reviews are right at the beginning of the book, so you must acknowledge how great the writer is before your endeavor….
Pomp aside, Teacher Misery: Helicopter Parents, Special Snowflakes and Other Bullshit is actually very well written and structured, and most importantly, entertaining. It is basically a compilation of trials and tribulations met during the course of a teaching career. Some events are funny, some understandably frustrating, and some are downright horrifying, and this book has given me a new appreciation for teachers.
I think it’s a natural assumption to believe teachers don’t have to put with much, but they really do. Parent e-mails, unruly students, stupid staff members, ridiculous PC rules, and other nonsense can certainly drive a person mad, especially when paired with crappy pay, but the book is much more than that. It artfully points out facets of ridiculousness most would never impart onto a teaching career, like other peoples’ views, which one does not normally have to consider…unless that “one” is a teacher!
I honestly don’t have much to say on this book, not because it was lacking in any area. As I said, it’s well written (aside from my cat peeve of beginning a sentence with a conjunction, which is employed specifically to tie together two ideas in ONE SINGLE SENTENCE). It’s informative, and entertaining, but this isn’t the kind of book I normally read, you know, one with, like, a plot, a cast of characters on an adventure, a bad guy with which they deal. This is a collection of events, a collection of life experiences, but Morris certainly gets the job done, so I’ll say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it to the point that I had to force myself to stop in order to get my own stuff done!
Really, anyone who wants to be informatively entertained, and especially on the tribulations of teaching pitted against the simple-mindedness of know-it-alls, should read this wonderful book. Maybe, the rave reviews at the beginning aren’t so bad, but I think they belong in the back, or, like, on the back, like the back cover, but I digress….
Here’s an excerpt, and I chose this one because I know some of you probably think I’m a furry, but I want to clarify that I am not a cat, I am a human, and I don’t have a fursona. I just really like cats, but do enjoy the excerpt. It’s furrr-ightfully funny!
I have had the interesting experience of teaching “furry” students. For those of you who don’t know what a furry is (I certainly didn’t before I had them as students), allow me to explain. According to Wikipedia, “Furry Lifestylers” refers to a group of people who have “important emotional/spiritual connections with an animal or animals, real, fictional or symbolic.” Being an animal lover myself, this seemed like something I could relate to. But this goes way beyond loving animals. Furries see themselves as “other than human” and “desire to become more like the furry species that they identify with.” I mean, I really love dogs. Some might even say I’m obsessed with them. But I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be one.
Furries take their furriness very seriously. They feel a deep kinship with a certain animal, and dress like that animal all the time, even at school. Many wear parts of the animal such as the ears and tail, or fake paws and an animal head. Each furry has a “fursona” or set of animal personality traits, which they use to role play in various forms, on the internet or at conventions, for example. These conventions, such as Anthrocon or ConFurence, draw thousands of people who share similar interests.
My first furry came to school on the first day wearing white ears and a long white tail pinned to the seat of his pants. It was so long that it dragged on the floor, picking up dust mites and other debris. I wasn’t sure what his deal was, so I didn’t ask himabout what he was wearing. He offered that information for the class soon after.
I paired the students up and asked them to interview each other as a typical first day of school activity. The poor girl who was partners with the furry had a hard time keeping a straight face during the interview. Next the students had to introduce their partners to the class. They merely had to share the names, nicknames and hobbies of their partner. When it was time for the furry and his partner to present, they both stood up. The girl turned bright red before she spoke. “This is Herbert. He likes to be called… umm… Zorra. He says he’s a fox and-” Here Herbert interrupted with an irritated clarification. “I’m a silver fox.” She held back a laugh and said, “He’s a silver fox and is also… umm… He’s pansexual? That’s it.” At that point, most of the class was laughing. Herbert was extremely annoyed. I tried to defuse the situation by asking a few clarifying questions.
“Herbert I think we are just a little confused. What do you mean when you say that you are a silver fox?” He took a deep breath and said, “I embody the spirit of a silver fox.” The class was silent and waiting for my reaction. I calmly responded. “Okay, and what does it mean to be pansexual? I’ve never heard that word before.” He was slightly less aggravated now that he saw I was merely curious and seeking knowledge. “Pansexual means that it’s possible for me to be attracted to anyone.”
I quickly realized that I had gotten myself into a sticky situation, and I should have just moved on to the next group. But I was genuinely curious. “So it’s like someone who is bisexual?” I said, giving the class a serious look that meant theyshould not laugh. “No,” he said. “I’m pansexual. I don’t subscribe to labels. I’m just attracted to whoever I’m attracted to, regardless of what gender or species they identify with.” Another kid yelled out, “That means he’s gay!” Before I could answer, another kid said, “No! That means he has sex with animals!”
“Okay, that’s enough. Thank you for sharing Herbert and for being so open with the class. I appreciate it, and I learned something new today.” Before he sat down he said, “Yeah I’d just like to say one thing. I’m sick of being called Cat Boy. I am not a cat; I am a silver fox! These are two very different animal spirits.” Another kid yelled out, “Whatever Cat Boy!” and Herbert sat down with his arms crossed in anger.
The next day I met Herbert’s furry girlfriend. Her name was Alice, but she insisted on being called Loculo, which is Latin for “coffin.” She would not answer if you called her anything but Loculo. Loculo wore ears and a tail, but she also wore fake paw gloves. She refused to have anyone interview her, and she introduced herself to the class. She said that she was a wolf trapped inside a girl’s body and that she identified with a gray wolf in almost every way. She also said that she is very selective about her “pack mates” and relates mostly to herbivores. No one questioned her or said a word, including me. Something told me that for this student, her “fursona” wasn’t just a phase.
A few classes later I gave the students an assignment to create a fictional, future biography with an illustrated cover. This exercise was meant to be a way for them to picture what they might be successful at and well-known for later in life. I hadthem share their covers. Many students had silly, unrealistic drawings and ideas, but they had a lighthearted approach when sharing with the class. When Loculo shared her cover, the fear in the room was palpable. She stood up and showed the following drawing.
There is a drawing in the book at this point, which I can’t show, but you get the idea!
I really did enjoy reading this hot mess.
On separate note, I’d like to turn you guys onto this article by Aaron Dennis, who helped me get started reviewing books.
Thanks! Like! Share! All that!