Regarding Monster Teachers by Peter Brown
As an author and illustrator of children’s books, I spend a lot of time thinking about my own childhood. And when I look back, some of my most vivid memories involve teachers. My teachers had a wide variety of personalities and teaching styles, and they all contributed to my development in their own unique way. In fact, if it weren’t for some particularly important teachers, I never would have become an author and illustrator, and so I wouldn’t be here writing these words.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about teachers from my early years in elementary school. I had some really amazing teachers back then. They made boring subjects come alive, and made every student feel important, and saw qualities in me that I didn’t know were there.
Of course, I also had the occasional difficult teacher. You know, a teacher without a sense of humor, or who didn’t connect with students, or whose gruff manner was distressing to sensitive kids like me. I only had a few difficult teachers over the years, but they all seemed bigger than life. To make matters worse, I had a wild, uncontrollable imagination. And there was a time when I actually thought my difficult teachers were monsters in disguise.
I eventually had little breakthroughs with most of my monster teachers. They’d share a personal story, or appreciate something I’d done, and that would help me begin seeing them as human beings. No, they were not monsters, but they were prickly, and nowadays I can’t help being curious about who they really were, as people. What made those teachers prickly? What were they like outside of school? What were they like as children? I wish I could go back in time and get to know them better.
Since I can’t go back in time, I decided to explore these ideas by creating a new children’s story. I began by imagining how things might have gone differently with the monster teachers from my own childhood. I imagined their life stories. I imagined things from their point of view. I imagined little conversations and moments that might have helped us connect with each other. And these imagined scenes became the foundation of the story I was developing.
Years of tinkering finally resulted in my newest picture book, called My Teacher is a Monster! (No I Am Not.). It’s about a kid, named Bobby, who thinks his teacher, Ms. Kirby, is a monster. And then one Saturday, Bobby bumps into monster teacher in the park, and is forced to interact with her outside of school. Things start off very awkwardly, but by the end they’re actually happy they bumped into each other, and Bobby realizes that Ms. Kirby isn’t a monster after all.
Working on this book reminded me of all the different ways we learn from teachers. And I realize now that my monster teachers helped me learn some pretty important lessons. I’ve forgotten much of my American History, and my math skills are pretty weak, but I’ll never forget how great it felt when a monster teacher and I worked through our differences.
Peter Brown is an author and illustrator of children’s books. His award-winning titles include New York Times bestsellers like The Curious Garden, Children Make Terrible Pets, and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. He won a 2013 Caldecott Honor for his illustrations for Creepy Carrots!, written by Aaron Reynolds. His latest book is My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.). You can find him online at www.peterbrownstudio.com and on Twitter as @itspeterbrown.