“You know what I think they need to be teaching?”
I do not, in fact, know what he thinks, but I keep my head still and say nothing.
“They need to be teaching kids, you know, how to invest and how to balance your checkbook.”
These, I think, are wildly different skills, but ok. Sure. Good things to teach. I risk a slight nod of my head.
Thus encouraged, he continues, “And kids should have to take Phys Ed right through grade 12. When I was in high school it was only grade 9, but that’s not enough. They need to learn to be active.” I continue to listen attentively. “And then, if they taught, you know, how to cook and, like, nutrition. That would be perfect. I mean, think of how much that would save our society on health care.”
He has more ideas, but at this point I am distracted by two things. First, I’m imagining the absolute chaos that would come from trying to install kitchens in every school. Didn’t we just finish taking those out? How much would this cost? And I’m already down a rabbit hole thinking about allergies & religious food accommodations, not to mention the kids who are vegetarian, vegan or… the possibilities are endless. Maybe we could have a vegan class? Or a celiac class? How would that work? What could we teach them to cook? Who would teach these courses? And what of the the gym space for all that Phys Ed? We would need a lot of gym space… Second, I am distracted because he is scraping the plaque off my teeth with a very sharp tool – and he is still talking.
When he pauses both activities, I tell him that the Ministry of Education added financial literacy to the math curriculum this year. He is delighted. “In what grades?” he wants to know. Um… all? at least through grade 8? I don’t know – I’m an English teacher for Heaven’s sake. Will his grade 7 son learn financial literacy during this school year? I wait for a pause in the scraping and gently remind him that we are teaching in a pandemic. He has chosen to have his children completely virtual. The teachers didn’t even get the new curriculum until the end of June. In a pandemic. With no PD. Maybe he could go gentle on his expectations for this year? He agrees that this seems reasonable.
He’s using the floss now and talking about the housing market. Safer topic for me, and I let my mind wander again as I consider just how much people expect of teachers. This hygienist is, I suspect, a really good father. He loves his children and wants the best for them. But… wow… school has become so much more than reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Clearly, he believes that we should be educating the whole child; so do I, though I think we mean it in different ways.
I think about all the students I have taught this year, children I have never seen without a mask on; children I have never sat with, shoulder-to-shoulder, to talk about their writing or discuss a book. I imagine the fun of taking them outside, of cooking with them… I’d let someone else teach the financial literacy part… we could go camping…
But then I’m back in the dentist’s chair and I’m an English teacher and it’s still a pandemic. At least my teeth are clean.