When I was in high school, I had a very aggravating world history teacher.
He used to do this very annoying thing: whenever a female asked him a question, he would usually say something like this*:
“Patience is a virtue, rarely found in men and never in little girls named fill-in-the-blank with the question-asker’s name.”
*Full disclosure: it has been many years since high school and I cannot recall his exact wording. Also, memory is a finicky thing, and as I recall, he only did this aggravating thing to young women, but I suppose in all fairness he could have said it to the young men. But to the best of my knowledge, he only said it to young women.
He used this phrase alongside many other subtle and not-so-subtle words and actions that made us young women feel like he was a male chauvinist pig, which in my day was a phrase bandied about by some women towards men like my teacher which is how we would have known of it.
We all felt it. He actually pitted the males against the women and listed our test scores prominently on the chalkboard each week: the males first, and then the women. The men usually got the highest grades, which he loved to gloat about. They were always listed on top.
Boy, did that burn us women up. The competition made us all work harder than we might have. We longed to knock the chip off his shoulder.
I remember when one of us finally earned the highest score. We couldn’t wait to find her name at the top of the list!
But he acted disgusted and refused to move her name to the top of his list, which we thought was grossly unfair.
I have thought of him over the years since, never with good feelings. His actions might seem innocuous, but we young women had enough societal images and messages coming at us telling us that our intellect was insignificant and unnecessary. We did not need to have it hammered into us by our teacher.
I happened to Google the words that I recall him always saying, and I found the following quote. While I found a source or two attributed to it, I was not satisfied that those sources were the actual creators of the saying.
“Patience is a virtue, Possess it if you can, Seldom found in woman, Never found in man.”
I find it interesting that my teacher had been so drawn to it that it became a staple in his tools for the classroom. I wonder how he came to find it…it clearly made a deep and lasting impression on him.
Someone choosing to commit their life to teach high school seniors is certainly someone of interest to me. And he was extremely passionate about world history and committed to our education. We all probably worked harder in his class than any other. Maybe he deserves credit for that. He certainly made a lasting impression on me.
Did he prepare us young women for the “real world” or did he merely deepen a dynamic that we’d already had jammed down our throats that we’d soon find further evidence of in college and beyond?
I like to think that a teacher today would never be able to get away with what he did so boldly.
I do wish that he had not been so sexist. His teaching could have been so much more powerful.