“Principal Principle,” and teaching, and teachers

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Partner and I saw a brand-new play called “Principal Principle,” by Joe Zarrow, at Brown the other evening. It’s a funny / serious look at a year in the life of four high-school teachers, seen from the teachers’ workroom. Overall, it was excellent: crisp dialogue, good use of devices like the P.A. system (what would school be without one?), and (as usual) really excellent performances by the five actresses in the show.

 

 

(It was a new play, and not perfect. The ending was a little unsatisfying. Some of the moral dilemmas seemed a little too pat. And the passage of the school year – we began in September, so we knew that intermission would be December and the ending would be May – was a little too clockwork-predictable, like the passage of time in a Harry Potter novel.)

 

 

But it made me thoughtful about the teaching profession.

 

 

Firstly, it made me (again) grateful that I did not choose teaching as a career. I am not built for it. I have tried it, fitfully, over the years, in harmless small doses that did no real harm to my “students,” and I know for a fact now that I was not constructed to be a teacher. I am tough, in my lotus-blossom way, and (in the words of Elinor Wylie) I have faced out a hundred dooms, but if I’d ever tried to be a real honest-to-god teacher, I’d have been a gibbering wreck by mid-October.

 

 

This leads me, secondly, to give honor and respect to the very many good / great teachers I’ve had in my life. One of them is actually now my Facebook friend, forty years later. She was a wonderful teacher, and is now retired, and has now dedicated her life to being an all-around wonderful human being. Other great teachers – from grade school, intermediate school, high school, college, grad school – crowd to mind. They were distinctive, and authoritative, and knew their onions. Some were funny; some were stuffily serious; some were alternately remote and chummy. (I guess that’s to say that they were, in general, various types of human beings.)

 

 

This leads me, thirdly, to say that I feel vaguely nauseous when I hear people (mostly Republicans, strangely enough) talk about teaching as if it’s a well-paid racket run by crooked unions. I wonder, sincerely, if they’re playing to the fact that there’s a significant chunk of the population that hated school, and always regarded teachers as the enemy. (You know: dullards and idiots. And there will never be a shortage of those.)

 

 

So I suppose “Principal Principle” was a pretty good play after all, if it caused me to do all this deep thinking after seeing it.

 

 

(Of course, there were two women sitting behind us eating potato chips for a while. But I turned suddenly and gave both of them the Deadly Radioactive Stare a few times, and it seemed to quiet them down (although one had a nasty cough, and kept spraying Partner with dengue fever, or whatever she had).)

 

 

(But isn’t that what theater is all about?)


 

 

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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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