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Author Topic: Pseudopod 108: The Teacher  (Read 14892 times)

thomasowenm

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Reply #25 on: September 25, 2008, 11:45:57 PM
I do have to agree.  With one listen I could not see a point to the story except showcasing violent behavior, but with Ellens explanation of why she supported this piece I can at least understand it a bit better.  I guess it is like back in school when I was told why I should like Of Mice and Men or any number of "Classics".  When a passionate cheerleader for the story was able to  convey their take on a story and explain it a little in depth, I tended to find myself while not necessarily liking the story at least not hating it. 



deflective

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Reply #26 on: September 26, 2008, 06:23:39 AM
i'm surprised that people find this a happy ending. stuck staring at a wall, scared to turn around because of what you may see.

it didn't seem like the protagonist had made an affirming choice at all. more like she was driven into herself, made to see a world so ugly that she tries to freeze things in case it gets worse.

like the child in the video, the teacher chooses her for a random act of violence. isolating her, making her part of an act she wants no part of.

i like to think that that teacher was actually trying to give these kids hope. that it turns out the falling boy bursts through one of the posters on the wall and flys down a super happy fun slide, squealing with joy into a big pile of puppies. her teacher just pushed her too far before drawing her back.

sure that doesn't make any sense, but it's still better than standing frozen with your nose against a wall.



Listener

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Reply #27 on: September 30, 2008, 01:15:21 PM
This story was strange and disturbing. As a father of a young child who often does the daddy-toss and other physical make-the-kid-laugh-with-exhilaration stuff, the kid-into-wall was pretty scary. Also, the girl getting tied up with the jumprope, I feared the story would turn to some sort of kid-on-kid sexual violence. I'm glad it didn't, but the fact that there was a possibility of it happening was also scary.

I've also been a teacher (college english) and I know the rush of power you feel as a teacher.

I didn't get the teacher's motivations, and the fairly-rapid devolution of the plastic family into what is more realistic felt rushed to me. The author did kind of nail Kate's character, but he still felt like an outsider. Given the relative time it takes to publish a story, by the time it hits our eyes/ears, the slang and technology is already somewhat dated. Kids don't really IM anymore, I don't think... I think they Facebook each other. But that's a small thing.

My biggest problem with the story was the motivation of the teacher. Also, Kate seemed kind of petty about her soccer games.

I kind of liked the ending, where she refuses to hit the wall, where she controls her destiny in that one small act of rebellion.

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Reply #28 on: October 01, 2008, 12:16:29 AM
And your icon is appropriate, Listener!



yicheng

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Reply #29 on: October 01, 2008, 10:15:49 PM
I found the whole premise silly.  Kids these days have the internet and Grand Theft Auto, and trust me, they've seen a lot worse than some kid crashing into the wall or a teenager shooting themselves.  One hour every weekday with a freaky teacher is supposed to turn Honors AP kids into rejects, stoners, and goths?  I have been a teacher, too, and you just don't have that much affect on most of the kids most of the time.

I just never understood the relationship between the teacher and the kids, nor the kids to each other.  Inexplicably, the kids love the teacher and we're supposed to accept that.  Inexplicably, the kids hate the teacher, and we're supposed to accept that, too.  The ending was equally confusing and seemingly overloaded with cliche symbolism.



Bdoomed

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Reply #30 on: October 02, 2008, 12:05:21 AM
still on my story backlog, but reading that last comment....
as a recent high school student, i'll be the first to tell ya that the student-teacher experience is incredibly varied.  My last English AP teacher was the epitome of awesome, and the one before that was the female version of that same epitome :P
They gave hard work, which no one likes, yet everyone loves them.
On the other hand, i had a few teachers whose classes were incredibly easy and in some cases easygoing too (as in not uptight).  I friggin hated those teachers and those classes (but not all of them, again it varied).  My math class last year was one of the easiest classes of my life, as was my economics class, and i HATED both of those teachers with a fiery hot passion.
the AP teacher i loved last year had many of the same teaching traits as my math teacher did (a subdued "my way or the highway" attitude, but not really, hard to explain).  But for some other reason i hated my math teacher.  Maybe its because i hate math, but ive had math teachers who ive loved.
its pretty random.  I guess its the "aura" around the person and the interpretation of that aura that invokes these feelings toward a teacher.  so yes, you have to accept it :P

Kids don't really IM anymore, I don't think... I think they Facebook each other.
yes we still do, and ... yes we do.
i hate facebook (not really), but it has reconnected me with SO many people i was friends with growing up before i moved.  tis crazy.

and yes, one hour a day with someone who's every word is revered can change you.  haven't you ever seen Dead Poets Society?
« Last Edit: October 02, 2008, 12:07:18 AM by Bdoomed »

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


eytanz

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Reply #31 on: October 02, 2008, 01:31:52 AM
I didn't quite get the point of this story. It was disturbing, in a way - the thought of the eager class being slowly corrupted was creepy. But without any understanding of why the teacher was doing this, it felt random and abstract. I found it very hard to suspend disbelief. I also found the narrator's voice inconsistent - she often felt closer to being 13 or 14 than to being a high school senior.

Here's my own creepy teacher anecdote -

In my penultimate year of school (this was in Israel), my math teacher was a relatively young guy - mid twenties, probably, certainly younger than I am now. Before that school year started, in the summer vacation, a bunch of my friends and I spotted him in town, wearing a t-shirt for a rather racist far-right political party. But we never did anything about that, because, well, what could we do? And besides, he was a math teacher, that didn't really allow him a way to express his politics in class.

Except that about 2/3rds of the way through the school year, he decided he hates teaching math. So he stopped. It began by the fact that he complained about being trapped in class, and suggested we go outside and have our lessons in a nearby park. And then, instead of maths, he started reading us books of Taoist philosophy. And later, short stories. Short stories whose underlying theme was mostly "the best defence is a good offense", and "you need to strike before your enemy strikes you". At which point, we got the school managment to intervene and he went back to grudgingly teaching math.



yicheng

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Reply #32 on: October 02, 2008, 04:20:34 PM
...
so yes, you have to accept it :P

You misunderstand me.  I'm not talking about whether or not a teacher *can* have a certain "amazing" aura as you put it.  I'm talking about suspension of disbelief.  The reader is essentially asked to accept that the student love the teacher, without any evidence, and then that they hate the teacher, again without any evidence.  This violates one of the principle of good story-writing, i.e. SHOW me don't TELL me. 

...
and yes, one hour a day with someone who's every word is revered can change you.  haven't you ever seen Dead Poets Society?

I have seen it, but I dispute whether such an experience is actually *changing* you, as much as you are simply at a place where such a change can happen and the teacher is basically there as a catalyst, facilitator, and cheerleader.  For example, in DPS, one of the boys, Neil, decides to pursue acting instead of following a career as a doctor that his overbearing father has planned for him.  This is not so much the influence of Mr. Keating (Robin William's character), as much Neil is realizing and following something that he has already held and realized in his heart.  Perhaps, absent of Mr. Keating's influence, Neil's character may have suffered through medical school, perhaps even graduated, but eventually he would have been forced to deal with his deep personal unhappiness and lack of fulfillment.  And if it were not Mr. Keating, it may well have been another teacher or event that would have catalyzed Neil's realization.  To say that Mr. Keating changed Neil, IMHO, is both giving Mr. Keating too much credit, and belittling the individuality and freedom (in the deeply personal sense) of Neil.  To give another example, what do you think happened to the rest of the boys after Mr. Keating left the school?  Some of them would have been expelled, of course, but do you think the ones that were allowed to stay in school would have had their Ivy-league and Trust-funded lives fundamentally changed?  Even Charlie Dalton, the founder of the Dead Poets, showed a defiant and mischievious streak well before meeting Mr. Keating.  If it were not "O-Captain My Captain", it would have been something else.  "You are not a unique snowflake" perhaps.

Having been a martial arts instructor for many years and spending time as a SAT prep tutor, I can say that as a teacher, your goal ultimately isn't to save and uplift every student that come through your class.  Many of the poor-performing students are that way because of things that are completely outside of your control: e.g. family troubles (divorce is big), parental pressure, drugs (ritalin and worse), financial troubles, etc.  On the bright side, many of the best-performing students are that way because of things that are beyond you as well: stable families, encouraging/empowering parents, etc.  The best you hope for is to encourage the ones that are on a good trajectory, go through your script with as much enthusiasm and sincerity as you can muster, and hope some of what you say sticks to a few of them.  I'm not saying this to be depressing, because teaching is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had, but that as a teacher too much emotional investment can easily backfire and flip into bitterness.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2008, 04:23:46 PM by yicheng »



DKT

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Reply #33 on: October 02, 2008, 04:37:34 PM
Heh. Viewing this story as the anti-Dead Poets Society is kind of awesome and makes me want to listen to it again...


pgtremblay

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Reply #34 on: October 02, 2008, 11:38:05 PM
Hey all,

Very interesting and gratifying discussion, here (even the posters who hated it...heh).  I've had a fun ride with the story (first published at Chizine in January 2007 and then declared a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award earlier this year), and I can't tell you how cool it is to see Pseudopod's listeners posting passionately about it, and posting about all the pod stories.  Good stuff.  Nice to see some people still care about short fiction.  Short horror fiction.

FWIW, I've been a high school math teacher for going on 14 years now. 

And, if you'll allow a moment of spam, my latest short story, also published by Chizine (this story was their contest winner), "The Blog at the End of the World" is live at www.theblogattheendoftheworld.com  If you liked "The Teacher," I think you may dig this one.  If you didn't like "The Teacher," you probably won't like this one either. ;)

paul tremblay



Void Munashii

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Reply #35 on: October 03, 2008, 12:21:00 AM
If you liked "The Teacher," I think you may dig this one.  If you didn't like "The Teacher," you probably won't like this one either. ;)

  What if we liked it, but felt like we didn't completely get it?

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pgtremblay

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Reply #36 on: October 03, 2008, 01:53:26 AM
I was being a little snarky (sorry).

The blog story is much less opaque than "The Teacher," which, for good or bad, I did leave purposefully a little muddy.



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Reply #37 on: October 09, 2008, 10:25:08 PM
Didn't impress me much, sorry. A cynical, self-absorbed child in a cynical, self-absorbed world taking a class from a demented Mr. Chips.

A little supernatural in my PP, please.

Next please.

Yep.  The last thing I want to see in my Escape Artists podcast is the same cynicism and carelessly lethal buttholery that I see on a day-to-day basis.  If I want to struggle against unfocused teenage angst, my church is looking for youth workers.  Overall, meh.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #38 on: October 11, 2008, 10:10:04 PM
The last thing I want to see in my Escape Artists podcast is the same cynicism and carelessly lethal buttholery that I see on a day-to-day basis.  If I want to struggle against unfocused teenage angst, my church is looking for youth workers.  Overall, meh.

"We must fear evil men and deal with them accordingly but what we must truly guard against, what we must fear most is the indifference of good men."

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Bdoomed

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Reply #39 on: October 13, 2008, 02:13:19 PM
The last thing I want to see in my Escape Artists podcast is the same cynicism and carelessly lethal buttholery that I see on a day-to-day basis.  If I want to struggle against unfocused teenage angst, my church is looking for youth workers.  Overall, meh.

"We must fear evil men and deal with them accordingly but what we must truly guard against, what we must fear most is the indifference of good men."
Then all must quake in fear of my very presence.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Thaurismunths

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Reply #40 on: October 15, 2008, 02:03:11 AM
The last thing I want to see in my Escape Artists podcast is the same cynicism and carelessly lethal buttholery that I see on a day-to-day basis.  If I want to struggle against unfocused teenage angst, my church is looking for youth workers.  Overall, meh.

"We must fear evil men and deal with them accordingly but what we must truly guard against, what we must fear most is the indifference of good men."
Then all must quake in fear of my very presence.
Sure. If by 'quake in fear' you mean 'shake their heads in weary resignation'.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Sgarre1

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Reply #41 on: October 18, 2008, 12:27:43 AM
Interesting story.  A bit *too* calculatedly obtuse (and, as a Robert Aikman fan, I love me some calculated obtuseness) as it makes one wonder if there is a specific viewpoint or just some observations.  But obviously a deeply felt work and that counts for a lot in today's world of writing...

I would have liked better to read it on the page, as it was a bit murky and unfocused as an audio narrative.  Also, I wonder if there's an age factor at work here as it seemed a story that would have more impact on a younger reader.

Good choice by Pseudopod, et al.

Thanks for listening.

“The audience’s shock of recognition is essential for punk art to operate successfully; images which merely evoke only surprise or shock are ultimately useless at conveying a vision of anything (this is why punk rarely employs nonsense or generally absurd forms). The audiences must be made to feel somehow that the images they are being exposed to, no matter how distasteful, surreal, or ugly, are speaking to them in a shared (if twisted) vocabulary.”

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Bdoomed

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Reply #42 on: April 30, 2009, 05:44:19 PM
a little bit of threadomancy here
just listened to this story last night...
wow.
i loved it.
i'm going to have to give it a few more listens to flesh it out fully in my head :P, but i can definately say this is my favorite PP yet (still working on my backlog tho heh)
the story grabbed me from the start because i had a teacher last year that we all loved because of a lot of the same qualities, in their own way (no movie posters or bumper stickers but the same feeling, if you get my drift).  of course, he did not subject us to disturbing images of people dying... but ... ya know.
anyway...
great reading by Mur, i've missed her :P
awesome story, very well written, definately my favorite PP so far.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Unblinking

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Reply #43 on: October 26, 2009, 08:29:24 PM
This story was like a poem: beautiful language, interesting but confusing, and clearly there was meant to be a point buried beneath the words.

But, as is not unusual when I read poems, I didn't get it.  At the end, my reply was "huh?".  For a poem, that's fine.  I don't expect a poem to have a coherent plot.  But when I finish reading a story I kind of like to have a clue what happened, otherwise the story just leaves me annoyed and feeling stupid.  A message within a story is fine, but if the story itself makes no sense, then I will rarely like it--I like a story that carries a message, not a message that carries a story (or in this case, runs over the story and drags it under the bumper for 17 blocks).

I'm glad that Ellen joined the thread to give her thoughts on the story.  If I'd gleaned all that from listening to the story itself, I would've disliked the story less.

Besides all that, I found it a little hard to believe that the teacher could get away with showing stuff like that and no one found out about it.



Fenrix

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Reply #44 on: March 19, 2010, 04:01:38 AM
Good reading by Mur. And I thought the character work was pretty fantastic in this story.

Many thanks to the diligence of Ellen and all the slush readers.  :)

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Millenium_King

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Reply #45 on: June 30, 2010, 10:59:17 PM
In a way, I am glad that Ellen (our friendly neighborhood slushpile reader) stepped in offer her interpretation of this piece.  Her comments helped me solidify my own opinion: basically, although the narration and imagery were strong, this piece felt like the sort of overly pretentious, "high-brow," modern-lit piece that you need a microscope and a lesson from Jaques Derrida to get any sort of thrill from.  In short: it's the sort of thing that allows a lit-crit satire like House of Leaves to exist.

No offense to Ellen or anyone else who liked this piece intended, but from where I sat it was just a mess of imagery that led up to the same anti-climax all nihilistic pieces lead to: the world is hopeless, everything is terrible, you can't change it, then you die.  Whoopie.

WARNING: EDITORIALIZING AHEAD

I usually try to keep my editorializing to a minimum, but this sort of piece is obviously inviting it, so I feel a little might be appropriate.  Nihilism is a funny thing, and I think it (in its pure state) fails to elicite horror since - ironically - it undoes itself.

Nihilistic tenant #1: The world is a cruel, random, unfair place.
Yes, but this is a matter of perspective.  It is only cruel because we expect kindness, it is only random because we expect order, it is only unfair because we expect justice.  There is a sort of freedom which can be found in accepting a rudderless, amoral cosmos.  Far from grinding one down into cynicism, it can awken a true lust for life - since that is all we have, after all - eventually the "boy hits the wall, right?"

Nihilistic tenant #2: You will die
Yes, but mortal death happens to us all.  Just like eating, drinking, sleeping and farting - we cannot avoid it - so why be so afraid?  I like horror where the fear comes from a gradual dread of something truly terrifying - not from the revelation: "Boo! You're gonna die someday!"

Anyway, I write all of this here only to show how I felt this story failed (for me, anyway).  When the horror vanishes with only a few degrees drift in perspective, I don't consider it an effective scare.  It's tries so hard to conjure up a fear of inevitability, but why not just answer "so what?"  How come none of the kids figured out that there is no way to avoid that oncoming semi-truck of death?  Why turn away into the blackness of the night?  Why not just face the headlights, crack a beer, light a smoke and have a party while you still can?  After all, at least you'll be in the light.

Anyway, please remember: these are just my opinions.

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