JuicyLesson 230: Fear and Loathing at Bialik … Part II … Names are Named, Beans are Spilled …

Featured today is Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson, doing “School”. How appropriate.



I like to be thought of as being respected and liked … who doesn’t. But mostly it is my intelligence that commands respect. I just got lucky and that’s it.

I specifically remember one of my principals, a woman whose intelligence was deservedly well-respected if not her management style which would have allowed her to boast, that while serving as a primary school principal before coming to Bialik, she never allowed “her” teachers to make decisions independently, having completely ignored the Staff Council, the latter cited in our collective agreement as the body responsible for making certain decisions on how the school functions.

By the way, I think of this particular principal, your predecessor, quite fondly, but not nearly as fondly as I still regard you, Paul, you with what you used to refer to as your “well-thumbed” copy of our collective agreement. You know how to conduct business and you certainly were smart enough to get me on your side, so to speak, given, of course, the facts that I served as Union rep as well as Treasurer, 2nd Vice-President and executive member-at-large for our association, the beloved Federation of Teachers of Jewish Schools (FTJS).

You yourself told me that when you got to the school, you checked teachers’ files and since mine was apparently the thickest of the lot, you then went to seek me out in school pictures only to find me not present in any of them, a conscious, personal choice I made to divorce myself as much as humanly possibly from the Bialik that I worked in but did not want to have take over my life. I never wanted to be assimilated into a culture like that and took evasive action where possible and necessary to avoid being swallowed up like Jonah and the proverbial whale, which is not to say that we did not have a whale of a good time at that school, on occasion.

I asked Estelle the aforementioned question over and over: did you ever let your teachers make a decision by themselves, but all she did was to keep nattering on, never answering or even addressing my query in any way, it was as if I had never asked it.

Anyway, this particular boss whose management style was suspect to say the least – she didn’t want leaders I believed, because she thought they were dangerous and threatening. She preferred followers.

She was confrontational, threatening at the drop of a hat “to write it up” when I felt that only a conversation was called for, and she would have preferred a bunch of lambs instead of what she got which was a staff of around fifty teachers (I’m talking teachers here, not guidance counsellors, office staff, librarians, custodians, none of these, just the teachers, those of us in the front lines, those without whom a school cannot function even for a day) who refused to take “no” for an answer.

This woman whose intellect I did respect once told me that I had a lot of what she called “brain power”. That made me sit up and take notice just like when my old friend, Claude Gaudet from la Côte Nord, a biker, friend and musician, said that I was very smart. I was around 26 years of age when M. Gaudet made this remark and it was the first time that anyone except my mother had complimented me on my intelligence, and this represented a monumental step forward in terms of my emotional and intellectual growth and development. You see, Mrs. Meltzer, I did grow up. Finally.

This principal also confirmed something for me that I had been suspecting for quite a while which was this: that if it weren’t for my obvious ability as caring and very capable and hard-working teacher, I would have been gone from Bialik long before the actual time for me to take my leave had finally arrived. According to Moshe Michaeli, an administrator who had my better interests at heart, they (the administration) were looking for “incidents”. Too bad. What fuckers.

I always treated my students with respect until some of them showed they didn’t deserve what I had put on the table for their taking. The thing that used to disturb and piss me off the most the were the kids who didn’t try. Just show me that you care and I’ll support you intellectually as well as being your teacher for life.

I think it’s only fair to offer a shout-out to one ex-student, Jonathan Morton, and one present student, Nihat Aliyev from Azerbaijan. Jon, I always respect your open mind and Nihat, the efforts you are making to master the English language are most admirable. Keep up the good work, kid, and way to go.


6 responses to “JuicyLesson 230: Fear and Loathing at Bialik … Part II … Names are Named, Beans are Spilled …”

  1. “So many great memories from when you taught us that still make me laugh! You are an original. Love the pic!”

    Name withheld pending permission to use it. Suffice to say that it was a much admired and respected one of my students who contributed this comment and for that I thank her. Thanks a lot.

  2. “Yves Rouillard, ya man that guy ran his class like a warden.

    High School Day 1 — 8:15 homeroom sec IB. He scared the fuck outta me.

    Guess it was his way of handling the class, that little cop/ … prof

    Oh well that bastard probably got promoted for his work that prick.

    Thanks for the closure on that one Jerry!”

    — Name withheld by request.

  3. Please note that anonymous comments will not be posted. The above comments had names attached but they have been withheld – one at the request of the writer, the other because I did not ask for permission to use the name of the commenter.

  4. I have nothing but fond memories of Bialik and all of the staff. If i could do it all over and attend again, i would. Some teachers were tougher than others but i found them all to be very decent, caring people. You have to have those qualities as a teacher, no one choses this profession for the love of the dollar.It’s for the love of teaching and passing on knowledge and watching your students excel. I’m sure, actually i know i pissed off many staff at Bialik during my tenure (1990-95) but im happy i attended and have nothing but wonderful memories of the school, staff and the students.

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