On surviving high school when your dad’s the teacher.


January 23, 2013 by alie

Commencing High School, where my Dad was the Graphics teacher, I thought I’d be afforded special privileges. After all, the Science teacher had been over for dinner, I’d beaten the Maths teacher at cards, surely this would grant me some kind of favour. Well, I soon learned, favour – no. Abject humiliation – yes.
High School is a hellish ordeal at the best of times. Especially when you’re a head and shoulders taller than everyone else, and your eyebrows meet in the middle. The last thing High School Alie needed was a dad more popular than she was. For a teacher who lived by the philosophy that if your students like you, you’re not being hard enough on them, Dad was surprisingly well liked, perhaps due to the events that went on in his homeroom class. No one wagged this first class in the morning, lest they miss out on the Jenga championships, or one of Dad’s cakes – baked for every student who had a birthday, and decorated in a manner befitting some aspect of their personality. His popularity was such that his arrival would herald boisterous cries of “Bengie!”

I went to a small school where no one went unnoticed. I, however, was denied my own identity. I wasn’t Alie. I was ‘Mr Benge’s daughter’. I’d often introduce myself with my name, only to receive blank looks until someone piped up with “She’s Mr Benge’s daughter.” The “Ohh.” that followed showed they finally understood who I was. This was usually followed with, “Your Dad doesn’t like me.”, “Your Dad gave me a detention.” and surprisingly often, “Your Dad threw an eraser at my head.”

Dad and me. Don't be fooled by the innocent look.

Dad and me. Don’t be fooled by the innocent look.

You, dear reader, were probably allowed some degree of teenage rebellion. I was not, because Dad was always there. Parent/teacher interviews happened every day in the staff room. Dad knew when my assignments were late, when I fell asleep in class, even when I perhaps didn’t show up. All of these, however, paled into insignificance compared to the day of the cross-country race. I was walking the last leg, in an effort to show that I was too cool to run. But when Dad came bounding towards me, I knew my efforts were about to backfire, launching me into lifelong shame. I was right. Dad grabbed my hand and raced towards the finish line with me stumbling behind him – in front of the entire student body. After that little incident I had sympathisers telling me how embarrassed they were for me, and how I’d probably never escape the burning humiliation of my Dad’s school spirit.

My sister made a similar mistake. The uniforms at our school were regulated with an iron fist, and my Dad was in the vanguard of the neat dress standard keepers; the last stronghold of the double-windsor knot. My poor, unsuspecting sister made the mistake of rolling her skirt a little too obviously. She learned her mistake when she was accosted by our dear Father in the courtyard, rolling it back down and putting her on a behaviour contract. The worst of all, the black day, came thankfully after I had already graduated, but nothing could save my sisters. It was Dad’s sex talk at Assembly.
There were benefits, however. Dad was also known as ‘The Open Wallet’ and I was constantly able to beseech him for tuck shop money. Also, there’s a special way of asking parents to help you with your schoolwork that blinds them from the fact that they’re actually doing it for you. Dad, without knowing, did my Year 11 Graphics assignment, then pronounced it as the best one and gave me an award at the end of the year.
The pros vs cons are debatable, but if ever given the choice you’ll have to decide for yourself: high school in the shadow of a parent, but glorious tuckshop adventures with treasure raining down on you; or sandwiches and doing your own assignments, but with the freedom to fail at cross country. It’s up to you.

Dad also blogs at http://blogofbrian.wordpress.com/


3 thoughts on “On surviving high school when your dad’s the teacher.

  1. I loved this post, I really did. I remember when we started high school, you were so tall compared to the rest. Your eyebrows weren’t exactly touching, but they threatened to do so. I was sick for most of the term when I had graphics with your father, so I didn’t get a teacher feel from him. Though my sister loves him, I guess that gives me an insight.
    I hadn’t really thought about what it would be like to have a parent as a teacher at your school, though from memory, there were a few who were in the same boat as you.
    To finish my rambling, your father started at Hillcrest before you started hey? I ponder if I will place my child in a different school when I teach. However, I dare say I will teach in the public system and my children will be in the private system.

  2. Janet BEnge says:

    love this! My father was a teacher at my school too, and since it was about 10 miles away he took me to school in the car – that was until he got a frugal bug – and I arrived in the front gates of the school on the back of his Honda 50 .. forty years and two teenage daughters later I wish my dad was still alive so I could look him in the eye and say ‘really dad… really?’

  3. shanzypants says:

    How did i not remember you telling me this?!
    I love this.
    I love the way you write!!
    I love the use of words.

    keep it up man, i will surely read.

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