Well, I’ve had to skip another writing prompt from Old Friend from Far Away. This one was : “Give me a picture of a teacher you had in elementary school.” I don’t remember a single teacher from elementary school. In fact, I can barely remember any from junior high, either. I do have some high school teacher memories, though.
Falls High School was the kind of place that teachers stayed at for entire careers. A handful of my teachers had also taught my step-dad twenty years earlier. One of the more colorful characters was our algebra teacher, who proclaimed loudly every day that there were only three certainties in life – death, taxes, and algebra homework. His motivation techniques were a bit suspect, though. Almost daily, he yelled at the class, telling us if we didn’t get our act together in algebra, we’d grow up to be nothing more than basket weavers. His comb over prevented us from taking him too seriously. My sister had an English teacher she had wrapped around her finger. She regularly told him she had a headache and could she put her head down on her desk during class. Every time, he agreed, and often went so far as to ask the rest of the students in class to be quieter in their discussions so they didn’t disturb her while she was resting. Every couple weeks he told her she should have her mom take her to see a doctor because she had so many headaches.
In my senior year, my Spanish teacher had to take most of the year off for health reasons, so we got a long-term substitute. Our sub was an elderly lady who had already retired from teaching, and she had no interest in actually teaching us any Spanish. Every single day we played bingo in Spanish – yelling “¡Loteria!” when we filled a row on a card. Most kids couldn’t even get that part of the game right. It was too instinctive to yell “Bingo!” Spanish was my first class of the day, and occasionally, I skipped it. A good friend of mine wasn’t in school anymore, and she picked me up in the morning so we could run to McDonald’s and get breakfast. The nearest McDonald’s was in Sheboygan – a 15-minute drive one way. We had just enough time to get to there, run through the drive-through, and make it back to school as my first period was ending. After missing class a couple times, my teacher asked me what was going on. I told her that I was going to McDonald’s to get breakfast and, since we were only playing ¡Loteria!, I didn’t think I was missing much. I wasn’t disrespectful in my tone. I was just being honest. She agreed, and told me that as long as I brought her a danish, she wouldn’t mark me absent.
My chemistry teacher was by far the quirkiest of them all. He must have owned a half dozen of the exact same suit – or he literally wore the same suit to work every single day – it’s hard to say which. The suit was a dark navy blue, and hung big and baggy on his tall but hunched over frame. He had white, disheveled hair, thinning on the top of his head. His glasses were a little crooked, low on his nose, and he personified the cartoonish figure of a mad scientist. He was known to be a packrat and filled his pockets with oddities. Rumor had it his need for large pants pockets was satisfied only when his wife replaced them by sewing tube socks into his pants. These new pockets were constantly filled to the top, so his legs looked lumpy from the knee up. He was also a photographer, and for some reason, he needed to have a few cameras on his person at all times. He slung the camera straps over his shoulders underneath his suit jacket, which added another odd bulkiness to his appearance. He drove a small pickup truck with a camper in the bed of the truck that extended over the cab. We could never figure out why, but the thing must have had a dozen antennae sticking off the roof. We could imagine having one or two for a CB radio or something, but why so many?
He was the hardest teacher in school, and graded strictly on many things besides the actual content of the course. Most of the time, he had us grade each other’s papers. We’d pass our papers one person back in the row, and we had to use red pen to mark each other’s answers wrong. If, as a grader, we didn’t use a red pen, that resulted in a dock on our own test scores. If we didn’t write our names on our assignments in exactly the right way, we’d get docked for that, too. He was also a pilot, so we had an aviation class in school, an odd elective for a small rural high school. I took the course because I thought I wanted to learn to fly one day, and part-way into the first term, I dropped the class, because no matter how hard I worked, the grades I got made me think I was going to fail. He graded on a curve, and I found out after I dropped the class that I was getting an A, because despite my low percentages scores, they were still at the top of the class. Our assignments often seemed impossible. Make a paper airplane that will sail down the stairs at the end of the hallway. The stairs doubled back halfway down, though, so the plane had to somehow make a 180 degree turn halfway through its course. No one succeeded.