Thursday, September 18, 2014

Teachers: The Good, The Bad and the Ones That Wore Yellow Eyeshadow

by Alissa Grosso

I was never the kid that got excited about school. Don't get me wrong, I was a complete and total nerd who read educational books for fun and who decided that one summer she would read the American Heritage Dictionary cover to cover. I only got as far as the B's, but the fact that I would even attempt such an undertaking pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the sort of child I was.

But school seemed to be all about a slavish devotion to routines. There's a touch of OCD that runs in the Grosso family genes, and it means that I eat my Pop Tarts in a very particular way (crust first, if you must know) and can never use the seashell shaped cat food dishes for serving my cats anything but seafood variety cat food even if these are the only clean cat food dishes in the house. (I will wash a sink full of dishes before I even think of spooning turkey cat food into a seashell dish.) You would think I would like routines, but I hate them. I especially hate doing the same thing in the same order day after freaking day, which I'm pretty sure is the definition of school. I'm not sure since, as I mentioned, I never did make it past the B's in my dictionary reading.

I can't believe that the first time I'm taking a photo of a meal, it's a half-eaten Pop-Tart.


Enforcing those dreaded routines were these authority figures called teachers. I'm not big into authority figures either. (Likely, it's now becoming clear to you why I'm self employed.) Teachers, like people in general come in a wide assortment of varieties. The best and the worst of them leave an indelible impression on you. As for the rest of them, it's a challenge to remember their names, let alone, what they looked like.

Good teachers are the ones that actually taught me something no matter how unconventional their methods like G.M., my high school biology teacher, who understood that there's a difference between actual learning and the mindless regurgitation of facts. Did he throw formaldehyde soaked earthworms at us on lab day? Yes. Did he allow his honors class to have open book exams? Yes. Did we spend one whole class period watching the final episode of Cheers on the VCR and another watching The Year Without a Santa Claus? Yes and Yes. Yet somehow I learned more in that class than I did in countless more traditional classrooms.



Maybe they were the teachers like Miss Ange my high school cross country coach whose passion could be seen in both her psych notes and her fury at our laziness and who I still hear shouting "In your pockets!" (a reminder to drop those tired arms to about pocket level) every time I go for a run.

They're English Romantic Poetry professors whose course I took in my junior year of college to fulfill a graduation requirement, prepared to suffer through an entire semester of (ugh) poetry, and instead found myself enthralled by the first teacher to ever teach me how to read a poem. We spent the first three class periods on a single Wordsworth poem, and I was surprised to find myself looking forward to my poetry class.

Even after my formal education was complete, I continued to come across good teachers, whether they were a boss (back before I decided self employment was best for anti-routine, anti-authority-figure me) or the countless YouTubers who have selflessly shared their instructive videos with the world.

I've probably had just as many bad teachers as good ones. My eighth grade math teacher used to deliberately mispronounce my name because he "preferred to say it that way." No surprise that he's the only teacher I knew who got into a fist fight with a student. That they went and made him principal a few years later, on the hand, was one of those disappointing surprises.

Speaking of disappointments, there's Professor Baker. English Drama to 1642 Not Including Shakespeare (yes, that was the official name of the course) was another one of those classes that I had to take to meet a graduation requirement. It was my final semester of college and it was the only course that semester that fit the bill. I was bummed because it meant I couldn't take the Alfred Hitchcock course being offered at the same time. But I was even more bummed when I learned that my hard earned money was paying the salary of a man too lazy to teach or even grade papers. Our final exam was a joke, that literally took less than five minutes to complete. I remember walking out of class after turning in my exam, shaking with anger. If I'd had the temper of my eighth grade math teacher things might have gotten ugly.

Which brings us to Miss Marble. My second grade teacher, was not exactly what you would call beautiful. She was old with a head of dyed rust red hair and a weird affinity for yellow eye shadow. Appearances aside, she was something of a witch. I recall her as mean, nasty and someone who seemed frustrated that they had banned corporal punishment. I Googled her recently, and found this on Reddit under the heading worst/meanest teacher you've ever had:




So, this was not personal opinion coloring my memory of her, even if she did tell my parents I should see a shrink since I clearly had psychological issues (and she didn't even know about the method in which I ate Pop Tarts!) On the plus side, I'm pretty sure that I owe my neat handwriting to Miss Marble who had strict rules about posture and leg position during penmanship lessons and who, when it came to printed letters, could not abide an unhooked 't'.

With my eclectic literary tastes (that same summer I was reading the dictionary I was also reading classic literature and pulpy science fiction) I probably would have fared pretty well on my own, but I suppose teachers, even those that are slavishly devoted to routines, taught me a thing or two and led me down some paths that I might have never explored. I've even learned a thing or two from the bad ones, things like be nice and don't be a lazy bum. 

So, as I sit here in my home office gazing out at the kids waiting at the bus stop, I feel bad for them and the monotony of school and routines that they are subjected to, all too aware that for every G.M. there's a Miss Marble. Then, I pick up my dictionary and do some light reading.


3 comments:

  1. I have similar feelings when the yellow bus rolls down my street...

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  2. That is the ONLY proper way to eat a PopTart! Gotta get rid of all the cardboard before the good stuff otherwise the last bite is the dry, old corner. I actually feet the corners to my dog, seems about the same as dogfood, right?

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