Helpful Hints for Teachers, by Art McCann

At the beginning of the school year, I, a gratefully retired teacher of yore, offer a few helpful hints to teachers. 

Since the first thing a teacher experiences at the start is a faculty meeting, some pointers. (Impress on the principal or superintendent all of the following. Said leader will be most grateful, for he or she dreads the meetings almost as much as you do.) Very important is the location of faculty meetings. It is essential not to hold them in the library, since terminating them (the meetings, not the principal) is of the utmost. It is too easy to slip off a nearby shelf a copy of, say, “Worldwide Pictorial of Exotics.” The reader (there may be a whole roomful of them) will then be in no hurry to terminate. 

Although I confess, if the meeting were held as I am about to suggest, I would not know about the largest carnivore on Madagascar, the fossa, a rather disconcerting creature to contemplate. However, my ex-colleague tells me the fossa is nothing compared to the leopard seal to be encountered in “The Illustrated Shackleton Voyage.”

Anyway, suggest that the aforesaid meeting be held in a bare, damp, and chilly room. As to chairs, there should be none. Everyone, including the principal, must remain standing for the duration.

As to coffee and cookies, they should be similar to the chairs — absent, nowhere near the site. Providing a nice cup of coffee and a few nibbles only encourages concerns and musings that are best left submerged in the subconscious, especially when you want to escape the room more desperately than the dental hygienist’s lair.

It is also very important to actively discourage questions and comments. Anyone who begins, “I was just wondering . . .” should be greeted with as many malevolent and menacing stares as there are eyes in the room. Anyone impertinent enough to dare to ask a question or, worse, endeavor to initiate a discussion should be ridiculed into hopefully yearlong introversion.

One colleague I recall, hoping to start a discussion of inappropriate student behavior (as if all adolescents are not programmed to be inappropriate), complained that upon entering the cafeteria someone threw a French fry at him. Thankfully his remark produced such guffaws and thigh slaps that he never surfaced again, and the discussion never took place.

Last, it is written in all graduate school administrative curriculums that faculty meetings must last a full hour or complete chaos and disorder will ensue for the entire school year. So concentrate on keeping them to no more.

Be content. You could have, in a moment of irrational slippage, volunteered to be on the committee to rewrite the school mission statement. Now you would think that every school in the civilized world would have the same mission statement. After all, they are all schools. No more, no less. But put together 10 or 12 enthusiasts in a cozy room, on comfy chairs, and serve coffee and Danish, and all will feel compelled to comment on a better phrasing of “We educate all.”

It could well take a year of once-a-week confabs to rewrite a short paragraph. Note well whoever volunteers for such a committee. They also attend faculty meetings. Keep an eye on them.


Art McCann first contributed to “Guestwords” in 1981. He lives in Springs. His unpublished novel, “Holy Daze,” still awaits a perceptive agent or publisher, he reports.