Updated: Feb 13, 2022
Upon hearing the name “Bailey”, he stops mid-sip and pivots to the right, stiff drink in hand. “Which Bailey?” he demands. “This is Mr. George Bailey”, Nick the bartender answers. Enraged, Mr. Welch angrily puts his unfinished drink on the bar and faces his wife’s tormentor. Savagely, Welch punches George squarely on the jaw, knocking him to the ground.
Welch shouts, “Next time you talk like that to my wife you’ll get worse! She cried for an hour! It isn’t enough she slaves teaching your stupid kids how to read and write! You have to bawl her out!” Defending their fallen friend, bar owner Mr. Martini and Nick shove the attacker out the door as Welch protests, “But I want to pay for my drink!”
The husband of a stressed and under-appreciated teacher never finished that drink. Maybe he should have been permitted to do so and maybe George Bailey should have picked up the tab.
Everyone I know has seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life and knows that the protagonist, George Bailey, is the Everyman in Crisis. His absent-minded Uncle Billy has lost $8,000 which was to have been deposited in the bank. Instead, the lack of funds means scandal and ruin for the fragile Bailey Brothers Building & Loan. Having mortgaged his youth to save the family business, George is a man with a wife and four kids and nowhere to go. The movie expects us to forgive him for losing his temper over the phone with poor Mrs. Welch, teacher of daughter Zuzu.
Why should anyone feel free to abuse their child’s teacher when life deals them a low blow? Life is stressful and can be very hard. But why should non-teachers be given free rein to use teachers as verbal punching bags as though it were part of the educator’s job description?
Research shows that fewer than 30% of teachers in the U.S. recommend that their own children enter the teaching progression. Why? Because they feel that they are expected to put up with angry and unappreciative parents who are quick to blame, while their school administration either doesn’t support them or blames them, too.
In truth, most parents are supportive of their children’s teachers. A few poorly behaved parents leave a mark. There is, however, the misperception that students spend vast amounts of their lives in a school when, in reality, they don’t.
In fact, from birth to age 18, children spend no more than 10% of their lives in a school. That’s no typo. 10%.
Here’s the math:
K-5: 6 hours per day x 180 = 1, 080 hours per year; 1,080 x 6 years = 6,300 hours
6-8: 6.5 hours per day x 180 = 1,170 hours per year; 1,170 x 3 years = 3,510 hours
9-12: 7 hours per day x 180 = 1,260 hours per year; 1,260 x 4 years = 5,040 hours
K-12 Hours = 6,300 + 3,510 + 5,040 = 14,850 TOTAL hours
24 hours per day x 365 = 8,760 hours per year
8,760 hours per year x 18 = 157,680 TOTAL hours between birth & age 18
14,850/157,680 = 9.42% of 18 year life spent in a K-12 school!
Very often teachers would like to have a pugnacious defender such as Mr. Welch. A teacher’s fantasy could reasonably be this: if a few out of control, blaming parents were punched in the jaw on occasion, perhaps the message would get out: stop victimizing teachers because life is tough or you’re an ineffective parent.
Perhaps if George Bailey knew and understood that Zuzu’s teacher was underpaid, under-defended, and under-appreciated, he would refrain from screaming at her because his daughter didn’t have enough common sense to button up her own coat to stop from catching a cold. BTW – aren’t parents supposed to teach their own kids common sense?
Though not excusable, all of this makes Mr. Welch’s action more understandable. Maybe George get its it now and Mr. Welch did him a favor.
Maybe there was another way to handle that moment in Martini’s Bar.
What would have happened if Mr. Martini and Nick hadn’t thrown Welch out of the bar but instead, discussed the issue like mature men to discover common ground? Welch could have finished his drink. Maybe Welch and Bailey would have treated each other with respect - and to a drink.
Then maybe the movie would have been called It’s a Wonderful Teacher.
©️Copyright by David Samore. Excerpts in part or whole may not be used without the expressed permission of David Samore.