GIRL ABOUT TOWN: Of teachers' pets in the workplace

Thursday February 21 2019

We secretly envied teacher’s pets and wanted to be like them.

We secretly envied teacher’s pets and wanted to be like them. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

SALMA OYIER
By SALMA OYIER
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When I was in primary and secondary school, there was this peculiar breed of students called teachers’ pets.

They always got the best treatment in class, always had coloured stars in their books, and somehow landed some of the most lucrative responsibilities like being the class prefect or being chosen as the most disciplined student or being the cupboard keeper (the person in charge locking the class cupboard and keeping track of pencils, crayons and books given to people), and sometimes even getting treats from teachers. They always got all the attention.

We secretly envied teachers' pets and also wanted to be just one teacher’s pet. I mean, with all those treats and the perceived prestige, who wouldn’t?

Suffice it to say, I never was a teacher’s pet.

I WAS WRONG

So, when I joined campus, I was so happy because I was sure that we were now adults, and too many to have anyone become a teacher’s pet; and I would finally fit in. But I was so wrong.

We actually had a lecturer’s pet in my undergraduate class! But somehow, I didn’t seem quite bothered by that because university life had so much promise and freedom and too many opportunities that this ‘pet’ phenomenon just passed me by.

However, my pet peeve was those people who heard us discussing lecturers and sometimes complaining, and they would go and feed this information to the lecturer -- in detail.

A whole adult, a soon-to-be working class human being, would just go and tell a lecturer things. The worst time was when one of my friends was having a terrible crush on a lecturer.

The man was such a show-off, but he was a handsome and intelligent show-off. Now, one day, in class, he starts saying how he heard that some people detest him and even gossip about him and lie about how he gives good grades to undeserving students that he likes.

“But even if you think ill of me, there are some girls in this class dying for me, always telling their friends how handsome I am and how I remind them of their ex-boyfriend…”

LEFT IT ALL BEHIND?

I didn’t hear anymore. Everything came tumbling down with the sentence “...remind them of their ex-boyfriend”, and we knew he now knew one of the girls in our circle was in love with him. My friend had been saying that she is so in love with him and he reminds her of her ex-boyfriend. Who else knew? We were a group of four friends, so one of us had to be the culprit. And we suddenly all knew who it was… And all other events that semester began adding up. All those secrets that somehow got spread in titbits, all those private conversations we thought were so private and secret...

Three of us looked at each other knowingly. And we knew what we had to do and what we had to avoid from now on. And things did change, including how we related from then on. And then we completed campus and I thought I’d left such things in school.

So, you can imagine what a shocker it was when I came to the workplace and in one company I realised that we have bosses’ pets! This was new to me. I was on one of those short contract jobs, that had been renewed a few times, and one thing I noticed was how the boss’s pets acted, how they sometimes got more than fair treatment, and how their names kept rolling off the boss’s tongue...Maybe I was just envious, or maybe this behaviour should not have been normalised at all. Anyway, that was years ago.

So, when a friend of mine recently told me about a colleague who seemed to be a boss’s pet, I was really taken aback. Do these things still exist in 2019?

I used to tell my nephews and nieces not to worry about the teachers’ pets as the phase will end. Now, when you come across bosses’ pets, what am I supposed to tell them?

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