I’m in grade 9 and working late on the yearbook with my all-time favourite teacher, Mr. Gray and my friend Dave. Mr. Gray’s wife even came for a while and brought us food from Peter’s Drive In and we got to eat in the Staff Room. Dave and I get giddy from the sugar in our milkshakes. Neither Dave nor I live in the neighbourhood – in fact, I live on the opposite end of the city (it was a Fine Art’s School so I took two buses and a train to get there) so Mr. Gray kindly drives us home. He drops Dave off first, which only makes sense because it’s on the way. We talk about music (I believe we were listening to the Beatles, he was originally from Manchester I think) and his car (an old volvo). We arrive at my house. I thank him and go inside.
This is what I found out years later from the principal of that school.
Mr. Gray arrived home in a panic and his wife met him at the door. “Do you know what I just did,” he asked. “You drove a girl home unsupervised” she answered. He didn’t sleep at all that night. The next morning he was waiting for Mrs. Diodati when she arrived. “I drove a girl home unsupervised last night.” Mrs. Diodati said her stomach dropped when he said that. She sat down. “Who,” she asked.
“Oh thank God.”
I mean, Yay me that they didn’t have to worry about me causing trouble but a) how sad is it that he lost sleep over driving me home and b) how sad is it that there were girls in our school who would cause trouble for the sake of causing trouble. In fact, it was rather rampant at that time where junior high girls where accusing male teachers all over the city of inappropriate behaviour. (Our principal’s husband, who was also a principal, being one of them – he was found to be innocent.) This isn’t to say that I don’t believe there weren’t some instances of inappropriate behaviour – but not nearly as many as were being reported.
I have been thinking about this article I read over at Work It Mom for days now. I find it very disturbing on a number of levels. How many of you thought that little story was going to end differently? Go read that article and then come back.
The Mister has been a Scout leader for about four years now. When he started we were married but didn’t have any children. Some of the parents would give him funny looks for wanting to be a leader and questioned him about our plans to have children. He calls Moira our “secret handshake” because now he is much more acceptable. The kids he works with love him – he is young enough to still remember what it was like to be teenager and a Scout. When the Mister became a leader I told one of my really good friends and she was freaked out. Her Dad is an RCMP officer and apparently in RCMP speak if you say “Scout Leader” they hear “Pedophile”.
This is what one of my male friends was taught while studying education: don’t touch the children, don’t hug them and if they try to hug you break away immediately, don’t put your hand on their shoulder, don’t ever be alone with a child.
Female teachers are allowed to hug students.
Another male friend (also now a teacher) used to work in a daycare when we were in University. I would meet up with him sometimes when he was getting off work. A tall, skinny fellow, when I showed up he would have a half dozen kids hanging off of him not wanting him to go. Sometimes he would bring his guitar and make up silly songs for them. I know that men are more likely to become predators than women but why does society now paint all men in that light? Why is it now inappropriate for an unmarried and/or childless man to want to hang around children? Why must he have an ulterior motive? What are we taking away from our children by not giving them the opportunity to have before male and female teachers/mentors outside the home?
I only saw Mr. Gray once after I left junior high. He went back to being a Principal of what would be considered a pretty tough school in this city. When I knew him he was “on sabbatical” for a year – teaching English and Social Studies at my junior high. I guess being on sabbatical doesn’t count for much when you are getting a crappy salary. I mean, you really must love teaching to spend your year off teaching – no matter how poor you are. When I went to visit him at his school two years later he was dealing with the world’s most annoying 8-year old boy who had a ton of behavioral issues and probably ate pure sugar for lunch just to kick it up a notch. I remember him trying to hit Mr. Gray and Mr. Gray having to carry him away to calm him down. I had never – ever – wanted to be a teacher but I think that clinched it. I also never again had a teacher I liked as much as Mr. Gray.