With a new school year about to start in Florida I have decided to post some writing that has languished in the draft bin for a bit. This post is from a year ago when I was seriously considering leaving my public school job (which I then did).
When you have around 150 students a year, that’s a lot of lives teachers impact, and the good are just as good as the bad are bad. In High School I had 23 different teachers, here are the ones that I remember and why.
Mr. K – I was in his regular History class and he only wanted to teach AP so we just did definitions from the textbook and read the chapter (silently!) while he sat at his desk. He also left a lot for no reason, so we went through his desk and found “paraphernalia,” which we never told anyone about.
Freshman English – Some guy who was a coach and kept saying “Your ass is grass and I’m a lawnmower” which, for some reason, upset me a lot. He made us do quizzes every day, but we graded with ourselves. I think he wanted us to cheat?
Ms. K – My Junior English (AP Language) teacher was obviously talented at one time, but by the time we came around she was completely burnt out on teaching and hated us. However, as much as she hated us, she hated our affectionate nicknames even more (sorry, Kern-dawg). Once my friend wrote a paper – not on the topic assigned mind you – but about how another student (an athlete) was paying someone else to do his papers. Ms. K just wrote “I know” on her paper and drew a frown face; my friend got an A.
Physics Teacher – She was so awesome and weird and I can’t remember her name. She looked perpetually disheveled with her coke bottle glasses and mop of dark hair thrown into a ponytail that she slept on. Then she came to a play at the school, on her motorcycle, wearing red lipstick, and was easily the prettiest teacher there. Refusing to put on makeup at 5 AM was something I would identify with once I taught High School. In class when she got bored she would get a chicken from the farm class and let it run around. I was terrible at Physics, but she would give me extra credit for my doodles. I got an F, but she still invited me to be in AP Physics (back when you had to apply) because she liked having me around.
Crazy Sub – We had a crazy substitute that was the only one I remember. Aside from random classes, when a coach was fired mid-year for his “relationship” with a student, she came in full time. She had a huge digital watch and made us make a skeleton out of gallon milk jugs. If you didn’t stand for the pledge she would scream and cry because her husband, now deceased, was “in the war.” He died of old age, but she made it seem like he died in the trenches.
Mrs. T – The photography teacher at our school who was so kind, generous, and lovable. Universally adored I cannot remember her teaching us photography. She had so little equipment we were all on shifts, which meant you could only develop photos once a week. Cutbacks!
History Teacher – It was his last year before retirement and we knew it. The deal was, if we could keep quiet for half of the class and let him lecture, we could have the last half of the class to talk amongst ourselves. We took the deal. The disruptive kids were sent to his in-class office to make puzzles, which they proudly showed us. He retired in 1995.
Psychology Teacher – It was his last year and it was mid-year, right before Christmas break. He said it was his last day, said every swear word he knew, lit a cigarette, and said we could take anything from the room we wanted. Then he walked out of the room, out a fire exit, and drove away.
Math Teacher – She hated me. I don’t know why. I wasn’t great at math? I was a quirky kid with badly dyed blue hair who wore thrift store men’s clothes. She picked on me and I felt like I was going to throw up every time her class was about to start. I took the AP Algebra exam and, when I saw her after results posted, in a completely empty summer break school, she said, “So, did you fail?” “No,” I said, “I passed.” That she wanted me to fail still makes me sick. When I taught public school I tried to be not her, she had that much of an impact on me.
Match Teacher Two – There was something wrong with this match teacher. It was before class size caps so there were forty of us in a classroom. Our class was fine, but others were not. She had twin daughters who were in the High School at the time and she was weirdly close to them. One day she had a nervous breakdown in class and we never saw her again. I used to watch her screen saver because it was an aquarium.
Madame T – The French teacher who may have been actually insane. I loved her when I was younger, but as I grew up I realized that she was a really bad teacher. She was erratic in a way that was funny to teenagers though. She would prank call people in French, challenge other students to push up contests, and take us on in-school “field trips” for no discernible reason. When exams rolled around we had a 1,000 question final that she announced no one would pass.
Mrs. S – I had this English teacher for two years and she is the one and only reason I got a MA in English. She was an amazing and inspiring teacher, adored Faulkner, and was so professional I had no idea she had an adult daughter until year 2. We would mix creative projects with harder work, she would push us without letting us fail, and encouraged us all to think for ourselves. Growing up without a strong mother figure, I genuinely loved Mrs. S and wanted her to be proud of me. On the last day of school as a Senior, she read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” to us and cried. I love you Mrs. S, you changed my entire life.
Freshman Biology – When tasked with writing a letter to the editor in another class, I wrote about how dissection in Biology class is barbaric and unnecessary. It was published in the local paper and, when my Biology teacher saw it, she freaked out and had the principal call my parents in. My dad told them both that I have a right to free speech and walked out. I was given an alternative assignment, but got a revenge C all year anyway. All she did, every day, was put notes on the board and make us write them down.
What teachers do you remember? If you’re a teacher, did a teacher inspire you to attempt the most insane career ever? Happy almost new school year, everyone!