Art Buchwald was a humorist and wrote political satire for many years. This column was about the tough life of School Teachers published many years ago but still holds true.
“When SAT scores plummet in the United States, everyone blames the schoolteachers. But this is too easy. The average salary of a schoolteacher, after four years of college, is $30,000 a year. Because many teachers have to moonlight on another job in order to make ends meet, they are not getting enough rest to be sharp in the classroom.
I became aware of this when I took my nephew, Shawn, to dinner the other night. “Look, Uncle Art,” he said. “There’s my English Teacher.”
“Where?” I asked.
“The man coming over in the waiter’s uniform,” Shawn said.
“He’s your English teacher?”
“Sure. Hi, Mr. Peterson.” “Hello, Shawn,” Mr. Peterson said to my nephew. “What brings you here on a school night?”
“My uncle is taking me out for my birthday. How did I do my English test today?” Shawn asked.
“I haven’t been able to mark it yet. We had a big crowd here tonight at the restaurant. There is a meeting in town of the American Bankers Association and a conference of Lobbyists of America as well, and they’ve kept me running. What would you like to order, Shawn?”
Shawn studied the menu, and said: “What gives with the oysters, Mr. Peterson?”
“Nothing gives with the oysters, Shawn. Oysters cannot give. You are supposed to say: ‘How are the oysters tonight?”
“Well, how are they?”
“I would recommend them,” said Mr. Peterson.
“Ok. In that case I’ll take a shot at them,” said Shawn.
“You don’t take shots at oysters. You can only eat them,” said Mr. Peterson.
“C’mon, Mr. Peterson. Don’t spoil my birthday,” said Shawn.
“I’m sorry, Shawn. I forgot my place. As a waiter, I shouldn’t correct you.”
“Hey, Mr. Peterson. Is that Mr. Alfredo, our science teacher over there, carrying all those dishes?”
“Yes it is,” said Mr. Peterson. “He’s a busboy here, but as soon as he gets his graduate degree, they will probably promote him to waiter. The manager of this restaurant only uses teachers from our high school. He is an alumnus, so he tries to hire as many of us as he can. Miss Bellows, your math teacher, is the hatcheck girl, and Mr. Fallows, the gym teacher, is the bouncer at the bar.”
“Isn’t it degrading to work as a waiter at night and a schoolteacher by day?” I asked Mr. Peterson.
“Oh, I never tell anyone that I moonlight by day as a teacher. If you let people know that you are a teacher, they have no respect for you, and they don’t leave you much of a tip. But if you tell them that you are a waiter, they feel respect for you and tip you generously.”
“You teachers have a tough life,” I said.
“It could be worse. Most of the teachers at our school work the night shift at Federal Express. They never get any tips there.”
We gave our order, and, after Mr. Peterson left, I asked Shawn: “Is he a good teacher?”
“Better than most,” said Shawn. “You know Johnny Halloran, the kid that I play football with? Well, he and his parents discovered his French teacher, Mr. Dubois, working in a gas station. Mr. Dubois forgot to put the gas cap back on their tank, and Johnny’s parents were so angry that, when they got home, they called the principal and demanded that he be fired. They said that they did not want their son learning French from someone who didn’t even know how to pump gas.”
“What happened? Was Mr. Dubois fired?” I asked.
“No, because the principal had done the same thing at the gas station he was working at the night before, so he sympathized,” said Shawn.
We finished our dinner and asked Mr. Peterson if he would please call us a cab. He told us it would be no problem.
“I’ll call Mrs. Thompson, Shawn’s homeroom teacher. She hasn’t had a fare all night long, so she will be pleased to take you home.”