The darker side of teaching

Teachers get many consecutive weeks of holidays. Heavy rain, it’s a holiday. Music day, they get free periods. The salary is good. With private tuition, they make additional money (in some cases, more than their monthly salary). They have nothing to complain about. This is the generally accepted view.  However, there’s a darker side to teaching that many people don’t know about.
Mischief and annoyances
In a classroom, things are always happening. Annoyances do occur. They can be minor but irritating nonetheless. They prevent the teacher from working properly. They also contribute to embitter his life. Small acts of mischief and naughtiness may appear innocuous on the surface but dealing with them throughout the day and throughout the terms can turn out to impact negatively on the teacher’s health in the long run.
Take the peripatetic. While the others are busy with their work, he is the only one to leave his place to walk leisurely towards the trash bin or to give something to someone. Attention is suddenly diverted to him. Work is disrupted. His urge to walk about may be based on a whim or a desire to show off. Talk to him and he haughtily says he isn’t doing any wrong. The challenging posture gets the teacher on his nerves. It’s when he makes it a habit to walk about during lessons that he becomes a nuisance.
Now, take the cheeky student. Has he done his homework? He has a ready-made answer: “Ti done, pa ti dir fer!” He plays the fool. The rudeness of his tone is like receiving an unexpected punch in the stomach. He has let the teacher know that he had better not ask him the question ever again. The teacher is in an awkward situation. If it’s a girl, she may, in disbelief, ask, «Monsieur, il fallait faire ce devoir-là?» The innocent look she puts on her face makes the teacher feel foolish.
And there’s the comedian. He makes a joke and the others can’t resist laughing. How do you stop a whole group from as natural a thing as laughing? The teacher gesticulates to them to stop. They pretend not to notice. The teacher from the next classroom rushes right in to scream that your class is disturbing hers. She cannot work. You apologize. She turns her back on you. Later, you discover she has taken the matter to the office. Whatever your explanations, the Rector doesn’t seem convinced. He feels annoyed with you. He has already judged you: you can’t control your class. Shame! In other words, you’re incompetent. Your day is spoilt. You feel alone. No student will ever manifest himself to say that the teacher has nothing to do with their laughter. On the contrary, some students enjoy his getting into trouble.
The mischievous student pretends not to understand what has been taught. This implies you’ve to explain again. It’s sickening. And we have this one who asks for permission to go out but never returns. Next time he has to hand over his homework, he can always claim that he wasn’t in the class when it was given. It’s as simple as that. Parents sometimes complain that their children do not have enough homework to do. They accept their kids’ version that the teacher does not give much homework without bothering to check. Children are capable of putting the blame on the teacher. Small things like this can very well turn your hair grey prematurely.
Teenagers can be imaginative. Ask them about homework and they have all kinds of excuses: grand mother was ill yesterday, so he couldn’t do it (you find out later that her grandmother died a long time back); homework has been done but, in their rush, the exercise books have been forgotten at home; he was doing the work when water spilled on it, he will give the exercise book as soon as the pages get dry; or he was tackling the essay like a good boy when out of the blue the electricity was cut off; or homework couldn’t be done last evening because there’s a tragedy at home  -  his pet got lost. Others come up with chikungunya or toothache or an imminent death in the family. When a teenager takes you for a ride, you really don’t know what to do: to have a good laugh or to explode!
Talkativeness is another big problem. No other thing is worse than when a whole class is like a beehive. It gives you a headache. Giggles, pinching, picking on weaker students, throwing crumpled paper on others, pulling the hair, signing names on the plaster of Paris on the fractured leg of a fellow... all this when a lesson is on.
Cumulative effect  
The above examples may not be regarded as deviant behaviour. But annoyances do take up the teacher’s time. Lessons may remain unattended while the teacher is dealing with them. Teachers need to demonstrate a calm mind, patience and tact. Annoyances and tomfoolery, however minor, can have long-term, negative effects because they remain an undisputed source of stress.
There are more serious cases. Students sometimes write insulting things on the walls of toilets about the teachers (males or females) they dislike or who are perceived as severe. In some colleges, students report teachers to the administration. Something insignificant is blown out of proportion. It’s clear that they want the teacher out. The aim is to diminish him. The teacher has to deal with all kinds of students: the good, the quiet and the cooperative ones as well as the short-tempered, the ill-humoured, the irascible, the insolent, and the moody ones. He must be capable of sangfroid to survive.
The teacher also receives surprise visits from the Rector or the Inspector. If he is in the good books of the administration, it’s okay. If he isn’t, then, he has some explaining to do. No matter how good he is, they end up finding faults in his lesson and the teacher finds himself struggling hard to keep any hint of confrontation out of his voice. Teachers are at times named and shamed during staff meetings. There are times when they have to meet with parents. In a few cases, there is verbal or physical aggression.
The teacher is exposed to situations of conflict regularly. Tension arises when he has to act as if everything is all right while knowing that everything isn’t really all right.
Teaching is a satisfying job. But it’s not exactly a bed of roses.