My Teacher’s Not Here!
My Teacher’s Not Here!
I'm doing my best to keep my eyes dry
as I peek in our classroom...
Who is THAT guy?
Someone is standing in MY teacher's spot.
He's ginormously TALL.
Miss Seabrooke is not.
My Teacher's Not Here aims to recognize and address the fears that may arise in young children when their teacher is absent from a school day. Like many other young students, the book’s narrator craves consistency in her school day. It becomes clear that she is counting on her teacher to greet her at the door as she enters class in the morning; Miss Seabrooke is a significant component of her school day. The book is effective in the way it begins by acknowledging the common fears associated with a child’s not seeing the regular teacher first thing in the morning. The speaker expresses her feelings by becoming worried about all the things her teacher normally helps her with during the school day. It would be easy for young readers to make connections with the main character in the book because they, too, may have felt that way at some point in their lives.
On the other hand, I also really enjoyed the fact that the student then had to seek help from her classmates throughout the day when, for example, struggled to open her thermos for lunch or had trouble zipping up her jacket. This portion of the book promotes a community setting in the classroom which is what we, as parents and teachers, want our young children to experience. We want them to feel welcome and to not feel alone. We want them to be make friends and look forward to going to school. Creating a positive classroom environment like the one in My Teacher's Not Here brings us closer to achieving these goals. This community setting encourages young readers to be independent while not being afraid to ask a friend for help when an adult is not available.
The second half of the book is where my perceptions began to shift. The teacher called to substitute for Miss Seabrooke was introduced to the readers as Mr. Omar. Leading up to the introduction of the male teacher, the students recognize both how much taller he is and how much deeper his voice is than their regular teacher's. I don't have an issue with acknowledging the different qualities a male teacher has; however, I didn't particularly agree with the students' reactions to the male teacher. In addition to already feeling anxious about their regular teacher being absent, they are shown to express even more anxieties because of the male teacher's height and deeper voice. Maybe the authors were trying to, yet again, acknowledge the fears commonly associated with experiencing a male teacher for the first time, but I think it may have not been executed properly. This portion of the book portrayed the new teacher as an“outsider”, and, to make matters worse, he was portrayed as an “outsider” because he was of a different gender than the regular teacher. It is no secret that male teachers are a minority in our elementary schools today, making the difference in gender a significant factor to consider.
Although the speaker, with the help of her peers, does seem to have a good day at school, the book's final page concludes with her worrying that her teacher will not be back again the next day. This ending, by acknowledging the fears and anxieties within the students, I think, did more harm than good. Many young readers will be able to identify with the speaker and her worries about a “different” school day, but that doesn't do enough to encourage them to suppress those fears in order to be confident students who have a good day at school regardless of the circumstances. Having a teacher fall ill and stay home for the day is not something that anyone can prevent- it is bound to happen for any young student. Nonetheless, it is important to reassure young readers that having a different teacher, regardless of the teacher’s gender, will definitely be an adjustment, but all will be fine.
Melissa Toby completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at The University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, BC, in July 2018 and entered the Professional Development Program for elementary teachers at Simon Fraser University in September 2018.