The narrator of Roddy Doyle's "Teaching" has been teaching for 23 years and he’s not just burned out and dried up, he’s completely empty. He is approached by a young student who says that her mother knows him, which seems to mean that her mother also was a student of his. He thinks about abuse and the fact that it seems to be a problem these days but that he is never the teacher the kids approach for help, and he recalls an incident from his own school days that—as far as he remembers it—doesn’t seem to have crossed any lines, although the reader feels that’s where Doyle is taking him. And then there’s the realization that he drinks too much, and the determination that he will “seize the day”—except that he’s not prepared for his classes and he’s going to wing it. He’s just going through the motions. If I’m reading it correctly, this is a pretty bleak story, focused on what could be—but probably isn’t—a turning point in the narrator’s life. He’s headed down hill and although we only see him for twenty minutes, it’s pretty clear that he’s not going to “seize the day.” Maybe not the best story of the year so far, but in my top three probably.
April 2, 2007: “Teaching” by Roddy Doyle