The English Teacher

Lately there has hardly been a dinner conversation in the Thieme household where the high school English teacher’s antics haven’t come up and been extensively bemoaned by all present.

“Why do we have to waste our time analyzing books and trying to figure out what the author meant?” is a recurring refrain.

Or “English would be so much more fun if they’d just let us read books,” is another one.

So when I came across this graphic the other day, I knew my kids would appreciate it, expletive notwithstanding:

English teacher

It also got me thinking. Isn’t it curious, I thought, that I now LOVE writing and am even earning a bit of a living with a published travel memoir (okay, the Starbucks habit part of my living at least), when I was never a big fan of English class?

Actually, to clarify, my bane was German class where I grew up. My English class was lovely. We had the coolest teacher, Herr Sievers who had trained in America, California no less, and he told tales of rattlesnakes and adventure, all set in Hollywood it seemed, which totally captivated my impressionable mind. I could sit there for hours and listen to him. The fact that he was young and good-looking probably played a role too.

My French class wasn’t bad either, albeit with an older and sterner teacher, Frau von Kürty – not sure about the spelling – whose demeanor totally befitted her blue-blood name, although it has to be said that she only acquired it by marriage to her also-teacher husband Laszlo von Kürty whose family had emigrated from Hungary. Back in the olden days, you see, upper-class Hungarians all spoke French.

I digress. What I hated in school, with a passion, was German class. It was so boring. I loved to read, don’t get me wrong. By age 11 or so, I prized nothing more on a Saturday than to mount my bike, pedal all the way to the public library in town, pick up every single Agatha Christie (in German) or Enid Blyton mystery I could get my hands on, stuff the entire stack into my saddle bags and race home where I’d prop myself up on my bed, preferably with a stack of buttered and honeyed toast, and devour every single book to the last page, immediately starting on the next when the last was done. Like my daughter does today with Harry Potter, I’d go through Astrid Lindgren’s Kinder of Bullerbü series again and again and again. Boy would I have loved Harry Potter in my life at age 11.

But as soon as I was told to open up a play by Goethe or Schiller, most German teachers’ favorite fare, I’d want to gag. I did not care one bit what they wanted to convey, their stories were boring, and I had better things to do with my time. I was on a mission to go through the entire young adult section of the Tübingen library, one bicycle-load at a time.

It’s so much more convenient today, what with Kindles and placing books on hold online, but essentially my two girls engage in the same pastime, sans the bikes. They get books delivered right to their doorstep. But they love to read just as much as I did (and still do).

And they hate language arts class just as much.

Now that I’m an author, the idea that someone might in turn be wondering what I might have meant when writing a certain passage sounds completely outlandish. It was hard enough to bring words to paper, I couldn’t possibly reflect on any kind of deeper meaning on top of that.

So, when you read Kilimanjaro Diaries*, please don’t speculate about what I might have meant to say on some higher level. I really just wanted a fucking toilet.

Kilimanjaro Diaries: Or, How I Spent a Week Dreaming of Toilets, Drinking Crappy Water, and Making Bad Jokes While Having the Time of My Life



    • Thank you, Jennifer! I’d love to see the statistics on this – the more kids love the read, perhaps the less they enjoy English class? Or are somehow English teachers worse than others, on average? The funny ones mostly seem to hang out in the sciences, if I take my kids’ stories and very loosey assign teacher ratings based on that…

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