With one particular senior teacher, nothing I did made her happy–or content, or even resigned.
She could discern note-taking from novel-writing from across the classroom, and she had a zero-tolerance policy for such creative development. She would even stop at my desk to glare if I so much as doodled in the margins of my notes. Her lack of tolerance extended, insufferably, to my chin-on-hands pose. She demanded nothing less than a bolt-upright position, an alert expression, and eyes wide with inspiration.
Because she did try to inspire. It offended her that I wasn’t blown away by her teachings. Her subject was a fluffy one to begin with, and she frothed it up like full-fat whip cream. It was about as far from my style as goth is from business casual. I didn’t hold it against her–she couldn’t help that her subject didn’t suit me. What I loathed was that she didn’t return my understanding and tolerance. And she, like many teachers, did not appreciate how painful it is to sit attentively in a wooden desk when you are dying of boredom.
I must not have been the only vacant expression in the classroom. I can’t flatter myself with the notion that she’d stop class on a weekly basis just to lecture to me. Because that’s exactly what she’d do. Quite regularly, she would take a break to remind us of the importance of her subject. She would insist (like every other teacher) that hers was the most important class we were taking.
And then, with barely a pause for breath, she would tell us about a shidduch call she received yesterday—just one of the many she got every week. They wanted to know about a former student of hers—and the girl had been such a great student that she was able to be quite enthusiastic.
But that wasn’t always the case. Sometimes the girl wasn’t such a great student. And then she didn’t know what to say. And she hated to give a bad impression, but what could she do? When she had no positive memories of the girl from class, she couldn’t make stuff up, could she?
While going on in this vein, she would march up and down the aisles where my posse sat, making eye contact with everyone. Depending on my mood, I would return her gaze with either my best Chrestomanci-vague expression (“Is this relevant to me?”) or a Charles-Morgan, Double-Barreled blank (“Words cannot convey my resentment and disdain”).
Somehow, she hoped to inspire us via threat. Like some modern version of slapping wrists with a ruler, or a grown-up version of the OD threatening to call the head counselor on you.
So: Students afraid to ask their teachers questions because of shidduchim? Really, I wonder how that could happen. Is it general community hysteria? Or might it be something else… something more insidious, perhaps?