It is only fitting, when I am feeling like an overly strict and altogether too boring teacher to speak about my worsts when it came to teachers.
I tried to explain (misguidedly in Spanish in interviews) why my worst teachers also taught me valuable lessons about teaching.
But they have. Because they reached a place in their teaching I never wanted to be.
I remember the woman who made a seating chart that was predicated on each student keeping their front right desk leg stuck precisely on the masking tape which she had put on the Berber carpet of her classroom floor. She announced prominently (and she hardly ever spoke, because we were just supposed to do our worksheets and leave her alone, as I recall) but this day she announced that if our desk leg came off the tape on the floor we would receive detention. She would then disappear behind her desk which seemed to have endless stacks of plastic organizer things. She was old with dyed dark hair with white roots. She did not smile. I didn’t not like her, I feared her only, and I didn’t understand her. My main goal was to escape the class and not get a detention, and perhaps learn something?
I don’t remember that we learned anything, maybe some social studies?
I remember my middle school Earth Science teacher. Sort of an old recycled heavy set crusty stubbly hippie man who spent most of the class in the lab out of sight. He would come in and sit from time to time. And show a movie regularly. In this class were the glam rock girls who without provocation decided I was a good target for bullying. It was utterly bewildering to me. It was well known that they had it out for me and other kids told me to keep my head up even though the girls picked on me daily.
Mostly though, I remember my high school and college teachers. The newspaper teacher who sat in his office with his feet up most of the time listening to Steely Dan on his walkman.
My tall gangly gawky French teacher who without shame admitted to liking bluegrass in the new wave eighties. She was actually pretty cool.
My newbie biology teacher whose child died of SIDS in the spring of his first year teaching. An incredible tragedy. I learned alot in his class…despite arriving late daily.
The Social studies teacher who I again didn’t recall teaching us anything rather he told us about his car accident and we mostly were just supposed to think of something to write in journals we had to bring. He never read them. But we had to write. I think it was more of a writing class than a social studies class. He drank Diet Coke for breakfast every day.
I remember our speech teacher who did teach us how to do speeches, we called her the Space Needle because she was very tall with a red round face. She was very nice though, and didn’t deserve such a naughty nickname.
The coup de grace teachers were a few prominent linguistics profs who were alternately weird and cruel. One who told me I was not cut out for linguistics. How can such a teacher be? How can a teacher be one to tell her student she was not smart enough? Another who granted a better grade to my ugly friend who dozed all through his class than he did to me, when I was going to study groups all over the place…Did I mention that he did northern European folk dances on the desk with his wiry and cranky little self?
It all sounds surreal, such is my strange memory.
I was a bit of an ingrate student. Certainly becoming a teacher has wholesale altered my perspective not only of authority but leadership and education.
There were teachers who were gentle, and yet tough. Empathetic and yet challenging. They saw how mortified I was in oral Spanish tests and were kind enough to not make it more difficult. The Anthropology and Psych teacher, the great readers who shared their finds.