Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Teachers (Part 79)!

Our first story today is from "shaggydoug":
I was in kindergarten at a private Catholic school. Kindergarten not being part of the "normal school", the classroom was in the basement. The teacher (yes, a nun) would threaten us that if we misbehaved, she would hang us by our thumbnails from the hot water pipes that hung from the ceiling.

One day I was sitting at my desk. The desk was one of those slanted deals that you could lift the whole top up and all your books would be inside. At the top of the desk was a groove in the wood that you could put your pencil in while you weren't using it. The groove would keep the pencil from rolling off your desk. We were watching a movie of some sort in class. I was bored. I decided to try to get my pencil into the groove by putting the pencil on the desk and without using my hands, blow it up the desk and get it to land in the groove. It was tricky because it had to be parallel to the groove to land in it and stay. If it was not parallel to the groove, it would fall over the top edge of the desk and land on the floor.

Concentrating on the task at hand, I didn't notice when the teacher came up behind me. She slammed her hand on the desk scaring me to death. She picked up the pencil and me by ear, took me to the edge of the class, and put the pencil on the floor and me on my hands and knees. She told me that I had to blow the pencil around the whole classroom.

I did it. Kids were snickering and laughing. I cried the whole time.

Can't remember her name. I never needed therapy. ;)

The sheer brutality and cruelty of teachers in some of these stories is remarkable, and it's uncomfortable as well. I honestly don't understand how humiliation is supposed to teach anyone a lesson about anything.

Now here's a story from David Gloier, with a decidedly lighter tone, and it includes a football legend:
This guy was my history teacher and football coach from grades 5-8: Ox Emerson.

At the time, he was in his seventies. He looked just like you'd imagine a guy who played football in the 1930s would look forty years later. A big man (even though he slouched with age) with a granite face molded by ancient football-helmet technology. He was a wonderful man and a great coach. We were definitely the only team in the parochial school flag-football league that had a coach with college and pro experience and it showed.

During bad weather days when we would have to be inside during P.E. or practice, he'd pull out the film projector and show us coaching breakdown films of Detroit Lions and Texas Longhorn games that seemed to date from around the invention of the movie camera. It was our own, personal, live "Tom Landry Show". He would run the film through a play, reverse it, and run it forward again, explaining every intricate detail of what we were seeing on screen. He's the reason I'm a football junkie.

Anyway, as nice of a guy as he was, he could blow his top when a kid was getting out of line. I'm not even going to go into what some of the worst punishments he dished out were, but I'll share my favorite. The classrooms had cubbyholes on one wall into which kids could keep their possessions (lunch box, jacket, books, etc.). The punishment for being a distraction while he was teaching was having to stand at that wall with your head in a cubbyhole for the rest of the period. Humiliating, but effective. Pretty funny, too.

Then, there were the nuns...

No one has an epic name like "Ox" these days. And if I had him as a teacher back when, being able to break down game film would have been the greatest thrill ever. I'm the kid who got a set of Vince Lombardi books as a Christmas present (I was either seven or eight), and I spent hours trying to memorize the assignments for each player when a play was diagrammed. Even now, I remember the books and how they felt when I opened them for the first time. It was thrilling.

I digress.

The last story today comes from "Soha":
Let's call her Mrs. Zitna, because I can't quite bring myself to use her real name. She was the same kind of obsessive control freak as your Ms. Limon - every homework assignment had a format, and if you failed to follow the format you failed the assignment. Didn't skip two lines between writing down the question and writing down your answer? Failed. Didn't put the teacher's name above the class period in your header? Failed. Each student was assigned a unique number which they had to write in the top left corner of every page, as though we were inmates and that was our ID. She once yelled at a kid for failing to put a "hat" on his number 1 - then praised me for my "European" 7. I felt like a traitor to the cause.

Mrs. Zitna thought she was a fantastic teacher, though, and used to brag to us about how she sat down with her children's teachers and helped them devise better lesson plans. She believed they were "very grateful" - I believed they were very grateful when she left. What're you gonna do, though? Mrs. Zitna was very... protective of her children. Which leads me to my story.

She told us one day that she'd decided to move her children into a new elementary school (tired of bringing the old one new lesson plans, I guess), but she was torn between the local public school and the local private school. The local public school, she said, was closer to home and had an excellent reputation. The local private school was a bit far away and their reputation was nothing special. Okay, so the class smartass voiced the obvious question: "Why not choose the public school?"

"Well," said Mrs. Zitna, "I just feel that parents who send their children to public school really don't care enough."

The funniest part is that she didn't think there was anything wrong with what she'd said until the smartass pointed it out. "Oh, but that's different. This school has an excellent reputation!"

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