Sunday, June 25, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Bel Kaufman


American novelist and teacher.
Bel Kaufman
My words never reached him; I could almost hear them drop, one by one, like so many pebbles against a closed window.
Kaufman quotes
Being a female, she spurns him on.
Kaufman
Teaching here isn't so bad. Once you accept as one of the ineluctable laws of nature that kids will continue to say "Silas Mariner" and "Ancient Marner" and "between you and I" and "mischievious" and that the administration will continue to use phrases like "egregious conduct" and "ethnic background" you can go on from there.




Kaufman Bel quotes
The clerical work is par for the course. "Keep on file in numerical order" means throw in wastebasket. You'll soon learn the language. "Let it be a challenge to you" means you're stuck with it; "interpersonal relationships" is a fight between kids; "ancillary civic agencies for supportive discipline" means call the cops; "Language Arts Dept." is the English office; "literature based on child's reading level and experiential background" means that's all they've got in the Book Room; "non-academic-minded" is a delinquent; and "It has come to my attention" means you're in trouble.
Kaufman Bel
During what was presumably my lunch period, Admiral Ass (a Mr. McHabe, who signs himself Adm. Asst.) appeared in my room with Joe Ferone.
"This boy is on probation," he said. "Did he show up in homeroom this morning?"
"Yes," I said.
"Any trouble?" the Admiral asked.
There we stood, the three of us, taking each other's measure. Ferone was watching through narrowed eyes.
"No. No trouble," I said.
Bel Kaufman quotes
I don't allow anyone to talk to me like that.
So you're lucky — you're a teacher.
Bel Kaufman
Paul asks how I would have handled a love letter from a student. I don't know — by talking, maybe, by listening. I don't know.
How sad that we don't hear each other — any of us.
Major issues are submerged by minor ones; catastrophes by absurdities.
Kaufman Bel quotes
You teachers are all alike, dishing out crap and expecting us to swallow it and then give it back to you, nice and neat, with a place in it for the mark to go in. But you're even phonier than the others because you put on this act — being a dame you know how — and you stand there pretending that you give a damn. Who you kidding?
We're dirt to you, just like you're dirt to the fatheads and whistle-blowers who run this jail, and they're dirt to the swindlers and horn-tooters who run the school system.
Kaufman
With me they get a solid foundation, the disciplines of learning. In my class they don't get away with hot air discussions and exchanging their opinions and describing their experiences. What opinions can they have? What have they experienced? What do they know? That's an affront! They learn what I know.
Kaufman Bel
How can I take seriously such mimeographed absurdities as "Lateness due to absence," "High under-achiever," and "Polio consent slips"?
—Syl
Bel Kaufman
"Why did you fail me? I didn't do nothing!" The reply, of course, is: "That's just it."




Bel Kaufman quotes
The building itself is hostile: cracked plaster, broken windows, splintered doors and carved up desks, gloomy corridors and metal stairways, dingy cafeteria (they can eat sitting down only in 20 minute shifts) and an auditorium which has no windows. It does have murals, however, depicting mute, muscular harvesters, faded and immobile under a mustard sun.
Bel Kaufman
Your lesson plan is excellent — except for the Emily Dickinson line: "There is no frigate like a book." The sentiment is lovely, the quotation is apt — only trouble is the word "frigate." Just try to say it in class — and your lesson is over.
Kaufman quotes
I had used my sense of humor; I had called it proportion, perspective. But perspective is distance.
Kaufman Bel
Mythology is studied in the school system because most of us come from it.
Kaufman Bel quotes
Teachers try to make us feel lower than themselves, maybe because this is because they feel lower than outside people. One teacher told me to get out of the room and never come back, which I did.
Bel Kaufman
Frances Egan, the school nurse, left her nutrition charts long enough to tell me there was nothing that could have been done. "Evelyn had a rough time with her father," she said. "Once she came in beaten black and blue."
"What did you do for her?"
"I gave her a cup of tea."
"Tea? Why tea, for heaven's sake?"
"Why? Because I know all about it," she said, shaking with anger. "I know more than anyone here what goes on outside — poverty, disease, dope, degeneracy — yet I'm not supposed to give them even a band-aid. I used to plead, bang on my desk, talk myself hoarse arguing with kids, parents, welfare, administration, social agencies. Nobody really heard me. Now I give them tea. At least, that's something."
"But you're a nurse," I said helplessly.
She showed me the Directive from the Board posted on her wall: THE SCHOOL NURSE MAY NOT TOUCH WOUNDS, GIVE MEDICATION, REMOVE FOREIGN PARTICLES FROM THE EYE...
Are we, none of us, then, allowed to touch wounds? What is the teacher's responsibility? And if it begins at all, where does it end?
Bel Kaufman quotes
When I tried to tell McHabe that it would have been more valuable to let Ferone keep his appointment with me than to kick him out, he let me have it:
"When you're in the system as long as I," he said (They all say that!) "you'll realize it isn't understanding they need. I understand them all right — they're no good."
Bel Kaufman
A teacher is frequently the only adult in the pupil's environment who treats him with respect.
Kaufman Bel
We got this jerky sub. she don't know a thing and she's trying to teach it.


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