Friend or Foe - Do teachers work for or against your YA characters? As I’m finishing my first semester as a real life high school teacher, I’ve thought a lot about this idea. Prior to this, I’d been teaching K-8, where the art teacher is generally well-liked. I was nervous about high school. All of a sudden, I was one of THEM. The infamous THEM.
I think of John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA - the teachers at Pudge’s boarding school were merely road bumps in the way of living a true and good boarding school life. In Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK, Mr. Freeman, the over-zealous art teacher, helps the MC work to let her inner tree grow and blossom and speak. In UNDONE, by Brooke Taylor, Doc Ramsey is both concerned, interesting teacher and worrisome meddler.
Middle Grade books I think of (Mrs. Granger in FRINDLE and the wonderful faculty at Hogwarts) tend to show more well-rounded teachers, real people, with bumps and bruises, warts and smiles, but usually with the student’s best interest at heart.
So how is it in real life? This is what I’ve figured out from my one semester.
- Teenagers can spot a phony.
- Teenagers will laugh at you if you try and show off a tramp stamp or wear a thong - but they think small piercings and small tattoos are super cool on a teacher. (in other words - act your age - not theirs)
- Teenagers want to be heard.
- Teenagers can tell if you’re truly seeing them - and that matters.
- Teenagers don’t want to be talked down to.
- Fair matters, but most understand that fair does not equal same.
- Teens are reasonable (usually) if given reasonable logic.
- Teenagers know if you care and if you care about their learning.
- Teenagers appreciate laughter and the chance to socialize.
- Teenagers respect teachers we will admit mistakes.
- Teenagers respect teachers we are firm with their policies (if those policies makes sense).
So, if a teacher can remember and act on the above- you end up a Mr. Freeman or a Doc Ramsey. But if you’re not, you end up foe.
Can you think of fictional teachers that fall into these categories?