Is it possible to learn more from a bad teacher than a good one?
I ask this question because I had a teacher of whom I wasn’t very fond (translation- couldn’t stand). And for some strange reason I think about her a lot.
A little weird? Maybe. A lot weird? Possibly.
Okay, it’s completely weird. I would like an explanation for this, so I can move on with my life.
This all started in a small town in 1973. I was young and naïve. I was about to have my first experience dealing with the man (aka- the school district). And I lost. Badly.
Actually, it was more than a loss. It was my Waterloo (suddenly my junior high social studies background comes in handy). The best way to describe it was an all out crushing of both mind and spirit.
You see, I cruised through kindergarten (half day… old school style) and first grade. No problems. No worries.
I loved going to school (by loved, I mean tolerated… recess was fun and lunch was always at least interesting). I was ready to move on to second grade. After all, a young man entering his prime pre-pubescent years needs a challenge.
My whole life was ahead of me.
In my permanent file were report cards full of S+’s (S pluses…). Things were going smoothly and I had expectations of a bright future.
My parents took a relatively happy, normal 7 year old boy to school registration. They left with a beaten and broken shell of what used to be a happy boy who had been filled with hopes and dreams.
What happened that morning haunts me to this very day.
Shortly after arriving at registration on that beautiful summer morning in 1973, I evidently angered a school employee. To this day, I don’t know what I could have possibly done, but it must have been bad.
The district decided to stick it to me. They gave me the crazy teacher. The “man” was keeping me down.
We had all heard the stories. After all, bad news travels fast on the 1st/Kindergarten playground.
The older kids warned us with their tales of horror about the crazy teacher.
When I say the teacher was crazy, I mean certifiably nuts. Unless of course, she is reading this; then I mean crazy as in beautiful, charming, helpful, kind, and dedicated (you see, I am very busy and all of my time is already filled with the soccer/homeschooling stalkers).
She wasn’t just a little crazy. Rumor had it that the Marines wouldn’t let her join because she was too mean.
I was 7. But I was about to grow up quickly.
A few days into school I quickly recognized this woman shouldn’t be allowed around children, puppies, or house plants. Any living thing was in danger if it got within 6 blocks of her bubble of crazy.
We always heard that when her dog ran away people used to protect it instead of return it. Unfortunately, she was crazy enough to know this and would eventually find it and drag it back home. That poor dog probably thought he was in the mob; just when he thought he was out, she pulled him back in.
If you think that is bad, word on the playground was that while most people talked to their houseplants, she screamed at hers.
I am pretty sure the principal was afraid of her. I never saw them together, which leads me to believe he was avoiding her at all costs.
The strangest thing about her? I don’t know what she did to make me think she was so crazy.
I still can’t point to one thing that led me to believe she was crazy. It was just a sense I had. And a creepy look in her eyes. And she had a twitch. A scary one.
The woman had the ability to sit at her desk and grade papers, while staring straight ahead with one eye so she could make sure the class didn’t do anything fun.
She could sense we were about to do something bad, minutes before we even thought about the idea. It was freaky.
This was the longest 9 months of my life. I felt like I was locked up in prison for a crime I didn’t commit.
This was a tough life lesson, but little did I know that things would eventually take a turn for the worse.
My 3rd grade year began and things went smoothly. For a day. On one of the first recesses of the year, I said something to my buddy about being glad we were done with Mrs. Crazy.
A dull, lifeless look came over him. Then he said it. These words still ring in my head 35 years later.
“She’s teaching 5th grade now.” After taking this information in and fighting off a very nauseas, cold, sweaty feeling I said, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”
I had two good years (3rd and 4th grade) filled with dread about having her again.
And I did. 5th grade was a nightmare that can best be described as 2nd grade: Part II.
I couldn’t stand her the first time nor the second time and yet I think about her and the expectations she had in place for her students all of the time.
Why is it that it takes 35 years to realize that some of the meanest teachers you had were also some of the best?
Consequently I don’t feel badly for the parents who come in to my office to complain about their child having the meanest teacher in the school.
I mean, really, their kid doesn’t have Mrs. Crazy like I did…TWICE!