Teachers don’t have to like you! I seriously thought they did. My positive relationships with teachers were a much-needed supplement to my single-working-parent family. And kids in class who hated school didn’t seem to learn as much as those of us who loved it. My brain assumed the relationship was the key factor.
(Digression: the friends from intact nuclear families who would pity me or patronize me, or admit to thanking their stars for being so lucky as to have two parents, a permanent house, no couch surfing, etc., are generally correct: these protective factors tend to improve school performance, general health, and professional attainment. That said, many of them experienced horrible things that were as rotten, more or less, as my childhood burdens, but without acquiring the resilience that is learned from getting the hell out of marriage. It shouldn’t be shocking to hear that changing your situation and learning how to survive independently can be better for some kids than being locked in an inescapable situation due to parents who can’t imagine Who Gets The House and What Will Our Families Think. Walking away from some things is a good ability to have, as is learning the confidence to leave an abusive spouse, on and on. But there are a lot of people who believe — actually outright state — that it’s better for their children to be in a home with abuse and addiction and horrible behavior simply so they can live in a nice neighborhood and a large house. They are not kidding. But they are wrong. Guess what? You can be afraid of change, and you can be enamored of your tax advantages, and you can wonder and worry and fret about how it would go if you left. It’s scary and it’s hard. But children who witness abuse tolerate it and perpetrate it — it’s normal to them. You can tell them it’s wrong, and they can tell you they’ll never allow it to be part of their lives, but you have modeled it and they will repeat it. If you think that living in a nice house with an abusive relationship is better for your children than living in an apartment with no abuse, you need to keep working on that logic problem for at least one more minute.)
So: teachers were my friends. No matter where we moved, teachers were impressed. A lot of them seemed to feast on having one kid in the room who wanted to learn and was a high performer. Pleasing them earned me praise and confidence. My Single Working Mom (SWM) would come home from work and hang out with me, making up extra homework and cracking the textbooks from her year of college to keep challenging me and make learning fun. For me, learning means teacher praise, fascinating subjects, Mom time, the adventure of expanding mental horizons. Wonder and more wonder. And supportive personal connections, that pearl of great price.
It took me a long time to realize that learning basically stops in the grown up world, and most of the things I have a chance to learn through my daily occupation are forms and formalities, policies and procedures. It’s still learning. But a lot of the people who are in a position to teach me are assholes. I’ve been avoiding them, because assholes are not my favorite thing, and because I’ve always assumed that holy bond between teacher and student, guru and chela, would have to exist for the simpatico chemical reaction of teaching to occur.
Turns out not. Paying respectful attention to assholes and asking them to share knowledge does not make them likeable and it does not make them like you. But people who know stuff seem incapable of withholding it if approached politely. There might be some habitual behaviors and secondary gain motives (ego boosting, etc.,) but people who have knowledge seem to want to share it if they can, and if they are asked nicely. This might save humanity. But only if we who want this knowledge can put up with the sometimes petty personalities of the wise. It would be stupid not to, right?