The downside of sane and responsible teachers

Discussion: Comments

The Privileged Child is just finishing high school, and I have enjoyed following her work over the years. As a former teacher, I am especially interested in her teachers. Generally, they seem to be smart and efficient. They post homework assignments and grade averages constantly. They are available and supportive.
There is only one problem. None of her teachers is crazy, not even one. I wonder what has happened to the old loonies I had when I was in school. My geometry teacher, Mr. Abraham, was tired of geometry. And, instead of teaching, he frequently would send a student to the board to write out theorems which he read aloud from the textbook. One day, the unlucky kid pointed out to Mr. Abraham that the board was full – to which Mr. Abraham replied, "Just write on top of what you've written." And on he went, theorem on top of theorem, the chalk dust flying.
Speaking of chalk, I had a wiry history professor, Dr. Potphil, who threw sticks of chalk at us when she thought we were not paying attention to her fascinating lectures on Washington's wooden teeth or Whitney's cotton gin. There were marks on the wall that, fortunately, indicated that she was not always on target.
One of my favorite poetry teachers used to come to class through the window. Dr. Evans would skip the walk around to the building's front door and step over the sill of a floor-to-ceiling window into the classroom, briefcase in hand. He wouldn't teach until all the blinds were level. Three of us were assigned to the three windows to adjust the blinds. Dr. Evans stood in the middle of the classroom directing us as if he were Zubin Mehta. One day after we finished, he noted that the classroom across the hall was empty. So he had the three of us go over and level those blinds.
My trig teacher, Mr. Smith, read to us out of the text and occasionally swiveled his chair around so he could write on the board without getting up. From time to time, one of our bolder students would jump out of the classroom window. Once the kid landed directly in front of the dean. The next day, the class was moved to the second floor.
I failed the trig exam miserably – missed two of the three problems entirely. Mr. Smith looked at my paper and then looked up at me.
"What's your major, Mr. Koon?"
"English," I answered.
"Well then," he said, "you made a 'C.'"
I'd still be taking trig were it not for the gracious heart of Mr. Smith.
Most of my history teachers were also coaches. One of them, the football coach, simply showed films of great heavyweight boxing matches. I would never have learned about Primo Carnera, the giant Italian heavyweight, had I not taken that world history course.
My college language teacher was an ancient German who hunched over his cane and carried two pairs of glasses, one for reading and the other for everything else. The group was small, about a dozen of us, and we had him for two years. Yet he could never keep our names straight. Class was a matter of "reciting," reading aloud in German and then translating passages from "The Student Prince."
Dr. Schwarz would get angry if we were unprepared, and we worked hard. But then he would call on someone to "recite" using the wrong name. He'd call on Jack when there was no Jack. He'd bang his cane on the desk when no one responded. A timid young man named Mathew suffered terribly because Dr. Schwarz could never get his name right. He'd try to call on Mathew but would use the name of one of the other disciples.
"Recite, Andrew," he would command. Nothing from Mathew. Once, the furious old man even hit Mathew in the shins with his cane.
Then, sometime during our second year, Mathew figured it out. He'd recite any time the old teacher called on one of the 12 disciples. I have often wondered what kind of grade Mark, Luke and John made in that course.
Many of my readers may think that my education fell a bit short. That could be. But what would I be writing about if I had had sane and responsible teachers like those of the Privileged Child?