Teachers Have To Put Up With A Lot
My wife and I were at a public house recently when we struck up a conversation with a nice young lady named Shauna. As we chatted, we learned that Shauna is a junior high and high school teacher.
I found this difficult to believe. In my experience, junior high and high school teachers have bulging veins, bloodshot eyes, uncontrollable facial tics and voices that are ruined due to large amounts of yelling. Shauna had none of those traits.
When I later mentioned this to my wife, she replied, “That’s only what your teachers were like. Most teachers are like Shauna.”
“Hunh,” I said, “What are the odds that I would have been stuck with instructors who all had problems with their blood pressures and their voices?”
“Have you ever considered that the problem was probably you?”
I was thunderstruck by this insinuation. Could it be true? Absolutely not! I was the paragon of proper student comportment during my teen years. In fact, I often went above and beyond my duty as an academic acolyte.
This was especially true whenever we had a substitute teacher. Most of my classmates and I assumed that a substitute teacher, being a substitute, had had fewer opportunities to hone their classroom skills. We would thus be doing him or her a favor by placing a few little hurdles in their paths. It would be similar to having a new recruit run the obstacle course at boot camp.
For instance, when I was in eighth grade, our science teacher, Mrs. Heemeyer, took maternity leave. We came to class one day to discover that our beloved and rotund Mrs. Heemeyer had been replaced by a young substitute teacher named Mr. Kidd.
We had grown accustomed to Mrs. Heemeyer, who, through a combination of cajoling and a healthy dose of authoritative intimidation, had become one our favorite teachers. Compared to her, Mr. Kidd seemed awkward and inexperienced. His teaching style was similar to that of a child attempting to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time.
Adolescents have a finely-honed, wolf-like instinct for sensing weakness. As class began, our adolescent noses were sniffing the air for vulnerabilities.
Mr. Kidd’s first mistake was turning his back on us. He was trying to explain some incomprehensible scientific principle – I think it had to do with either xylem or phloem – when he turned to the blackboard and began to draw an illustrative sketch.
Moments later, a paper airplane shot to the front of the classroom and crashed into the blackboard. Startled, Mr. Kidd jumped. Twisting toward the class, his face took on a deep shade of crimson. “Who threw that?” he demanded.
His angry glare was met by a sea of stone-faced teenagers. The paper airplane had clearly unnerved Mr. Kidd. Catching a whiff of weakness, we began to systematically close in on our prey.
When Mr. Kidd read aloud from a textbook, somebody made a loud flatulence noise with their mouth. Mr. Kidd glared at us, his eyes bulging. “Who did that?” he bellowed. Silence.
Clearly peeved, Mr. Kidd summarily launched into a fervent, spittle-laced lecture about lignin. From somewhere in the depths of the classroom, there came the sound of feigned snoring.
Mr. Kidd then instructed us to silently read a few paragraphs about chlorophyll, stressing the “silent” part. From somewhere in the quiet classroom, a lone marble began to roll noisily across the classroom’s hardwood floor and toward Mr. Kidd’s desk.
Something snapped inside Mr. Kidd. His face turned a scary shade of scarlet, his eyes nearly popped from their sockets and his bulging veins looked like mooring ropes. Snatching up the offending sphere, he boomed, “Whose is this? Who lost their marble?!”
As my classmates and I struggled valiantly to stifle our snickers, the entire left side of Mr. Kidd’s face convulsed in a gigantic twitch.
Mr. Kidd knew he’d been defeated. No one was happier than he when the bell finally rang at the end of class. My classmates and I jostled joyously from the classroom, secure in the knowledge that we no longer had to worry about Mr. Kidd trying to teach us anything. From that day on, his main focus would be controlling his newly-acquired facial tic.
Nobody knows who threw the paper airplane or rolled that marble or did those other things. But one can’t help but admire those responsible, whoever he (or she) may have been.
Should you want to learn about constructing paper airplanes or making noises with your mouth, I’m your guy. I’m not a real teacher, but I have a good bit of classroom experience.
Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at Workman.com and in bookstores nationwide.