Currently Listening to: Confess by Twin Shadow
This Happens… right?
“I could barely hear you, but it sounded good!” Some kid told me this after I had performed a solo during choir in middle school. I was a pretty shy kid growing up and during my preteen years I probably could’ve been considered “the quiet kid” if I was in a class that I didn’t have my primary friends in. Sure, I’ve always been fairly outgoing to an extent, but middle school kind of halted that for a bit. I had to put my friendliness on hold and fend for my life because if you got caught slipping you were history. Melodrama at its’ finest, but in the moment that is what it felt like walking the halls. If you didn’t have a reputation in sports or theater you kind of had to make a name for yourself. I found myself in the “smart kid” clique. I had been involved in extracurricular math and science clubs after school during late elementary school and middle school which helped me get some credibility I guess as much as one could in that situation.
Something about being the quieter kid though makes you almost more of a target for teachers during that time. Going back to choir class, I think about my choir teacher who seemed to be loved universally by the student body. He was pretty charismatic and had a somewhat decent sense of humor. He was a favorite for sure.
So going into the first day of class I had high expectations for this guy. Everything that had been said about him seemed to be true, he was very energetic and seemed to love what he did, which was refreshing since the art teacher I had the quarter prior was the opposite. It wasn’t until we were doing warm-ups when he would tell us to sing these short sentences and phrases to help harmonize with each other (I don’t know choir lingo so that’s probably wrong, whoops). One line came along where he had purposefully sang the line in a goofy fashion. This made my friends and I laugh because obviously goofy voices are funny to little kids. He stops playing the piano and looks me dead in the eye and singles me out.
“Campbell, why are you laughing at my voice?”
Before I could get halfway through saying I thought his tone was funny, he said “don’t be racist!” This sort of divided the class, half laughed and half were just confused. I stood there shocked. How am I racist? I wanted to defend myself, but I felt powerless. This guy was liked by nearly everyone in school and I was kind of a nobody at the time. Not to mention I didn’t want to get a detention.
Earlier this week my girlfriend had asked me if I had ever thought about how teachers treated you when you were younger and thought in retrospect, man that was actually kind of messed up. This is definitely one of those moments. Actually, I could name a handful of these times. When that day happened in choir I was just kind of stuck. I didn’t really stand up for myself with teachers or professors until high school hit. As a kid I thought, well they’re the teacher they can say and do what they want since it is their classroom. No, little me! Don’t think like that!
This is just one case of something that growing up I just thought to be considered ‘normal’. There’s times that in my youth I wish that I had said something about or brought to someone else’s attention because there were definitely things that I encountered and felt that definitely weren’t meant to be blown off. Let’s discuss.
Sarah McLachlan’s (Teacher’s) Pet Commercial
You know those famous Sarah McLachlan commercials where they’d show footage of the abused animals in shelters over her song Angel? It almost felt like there could be a compilation reel of all the times that I had seen a teacher be awful or even borderline abusive with their speech towards the students.
One time I distinctly remember was during social studies in sixth grade when this one kid’s phone went off. You got to keep in mind that phones weren’t a common hallway communication escape tool for people yet. Teachers at the time were also EXTREMELY sensitive to the sight of it and one could be sent immediately to the dean if spotted or heard. Back to social studies though. We were going through a lecture about probably ancient Egypt since middle school social studies teachers only believe in one ancient civilization. My teacher was getting all fired up and sweaty about hieroglyphics and then it happened… *RING*
The room went pin drop quiet. The teacher pretty much snapped his neck turning around, I’m pretty sure his eyes cartoonishly popped out of his glasses too. He screams, “WHOSE PHONE IS THAT!?” Nobody says anything. Why the hell would we? This man is built like a gorilla and could probably fling us out the door into the 7th grade pod like a frisbee.
The thing is we did all know who it was we just didn’t want the teacher to demonstrate ancient Egyptian torture methods. The kid, what a guy, raises his hand in shame and fear. “It was me sir.”
“Shame on you!
“B-but sir I-“
“GOOOOOOO! To the dean’s office!”
The kid walks with shame out the door and on the way out the teacher uttered two sentences that haunted me at the time, but cracks me up now.
“The hell with you! You’ll be lucky if you ever come back to this place.”
Bro, it’s a phone not a gun. Thank god there was only 10 minutes left of class after that so we didn’t have to hold our piss from being scared out of our minds. I think back to times like this and wonder how traumatizing it probably was for this 12 year old to be told to go to hell by a teacher for accidentally forgetting to turn his contraband phone off before class. I’m pretty sure I remember going up to him a few days later seeing if he was okay and the phone call ended up being his mom.
Saddest Kid in Grade Number Two
Let’s go waaaaaaaay back to elementary school. Elementary school definitely had its troublemakers and burnout-bound kids and that was made quite obvious by the way they acted and respected their teachers. There had to have been some gossip in the teacher’s lounge about asshole kids that they had in class and just carry with that kid in future grades. This one kid in second grade possessed the typical qualities of a teacher’s nightmare. He would crack jokes at inappropriate times, say bad words, fart in other kids seats, and stole people’s markers.
Given, none of this had happened yet and it was only the third day of school. This kid had asked one of his tablemates if he could borrow a marker and accidentally knocked over his books. Okay, it happens no sweat nobody tripped about it. About ten minutes later he opens up his desk and his books slide off again. This was the last straw for my teacher. She got up and stormed to his desk, picked up his books he had just grabbed from the floor, slammed them on the ground and told him to pick it up.
Maybe people closer to my age can relate, but back in the day those reading textbooks in elementary school felt like 100 pounds, so when she slammed those books it felt like she created a new fault-line underneath the school. What my teacher didn’t know was that this kid had scoliosis and struggled bending over. This poor guy probably felt the way that I did in choir class and he just sat there shocked.
The biggest thing difference about K-8 and high school? We start to develop our personalities and come into our own outside of what our parents taught us. The other difference? High schoolers aren’t afraid to speak their mind. The thing about high school teachers though is that neither are they.
I can tell you a handful of times where teachers deserved to get roasted like a nut. Actually 50% of the time they did and it was hilarious. I remember having a substitute for geometry one day and when you’re a sub usually the way the day goes is that you do your assigned lesson by yourself and maybe a partner. This sub took it upon herself to say that she “thinks she knows geometry” and attempted to teach the lesson. Little did she know that the teacher had printed off the wrong lesson and made sheets for YESTERDAY’s homework.
As she was ‘teaching’ the lesson, we gradually picked up on the fact that we had already done this. The smartest kid in the class raised her hand to inform the sub, but she responded “save all questions for the end, thanks”. The girl then said without hesitation “miss we’ve already done this lesson”. The sub didn’t like this.
“You really expect me to trust high schoolers to tell me what I’m supposed to do?”
The one kid who wasn’t so smart, but equally as vocal defended her, “Yes! We’ve been here, I have the homework.”
The sub got angry and told him to go to the dean. This guy wasn’t going down without a fight. He blurted out, “No! I am not going there for telling you that you should do your job.” I think on his way out he called her fat too if I remember correctly.
I had a fair share of those kinds of moments too, none where I fat shamed a teacher, but definitely stood up for myself. My freshman year biology teacher is one that comes to mind. She made it very apparent that she was married and if someone addressed her as Ms. instead of Mrs. she would snottily correct them every time. I had a hard time in that class, so one day when I asked for help and totally said Mrs. and not Ms. she took it upon herself to correct me anyway and started walking away. An anger flushed through me, I snapped back, “Are you gonna get over yourself and actually help me instead of walking away?” Of course she didn’t like that and gave me a warning, but after that she didn’t mess with me again.
I always tell the story of my senior year composition teacher when talking about teachers I didn’t like. She wasn’t a bad teacher by any means, her and I just didn’t see eye to eye. Junior/senior year I really cracked out of my shell and became very extroverted. I loved to talk and that’s still no secret. When passing around papers one day, I jokingly called my teacher homie since my speech professor (pre-requisite to this class) and I would joke like that. She did not appreciate this. From then on it was all about me defending my honor and her trying to tear it down. Charming lady, really.
This is Why You’re Wrong
Thinking about these times when teachers were being flat out terrible makes me reflect on the past. These people really were our parents away from home in a way. In our first days at school when we’re younger, many kids cry when their parents leave them with a somewhat stranger. The teacher is responsible for making that kid comfortable and create a safe learning environment. They need to develop a sense of trust in order to get to them.
Man, there’s some teachers that did the exact opposite. My art teacher for example all throughout elementary school would tell us to not talk at all and force us to do the same projects year after year. I’m pretty sure I did self-portraits like three different times and got told one year that mine lacked originality. Maybe it’s because I’ve done this before and I’m fucking nine years old you honey-baked ham. She also ate glue in front of us and that on its own was enough to make me uncomfortable.
Point is if I had a better art teacher growing up I’d probably be a more skilled artist and more passionate about it in the middle school years. You know THE YEARS WHERE YOU DEVELOP CHARACTER. I really looked up to a lot of my teachers/professors, even the ones that weren’t so great. They had the knowledge and they had my interest too. I was there to learn, in order for me to attain this knowledge the best is if I can trust the teacher. There are many times where I was let down by a teacher due to their lack of passion or willingness to help me out.
I am minoring in journalism and I was very skeptical for years because one of my teachers told me during a career building activity that they don’t make any money and to pick something else. Clearly I didn’t have much integrity back then.
Coulda Woulda Shoulda Brudda
When you’re a kid your teacher is not only like another parent, but also kind of your first boss. You’re expected to get your tasks and assignments done at given deadlines or else there’ll be consequences a.k.a detention or even suspension. You have this trust and strong liking for the teacher, mainly when you’re in elementary. I can’t think of many teachers or professors that I ADORED or anything close. Teaching I can only assume is like parenting. The kids that they teach and help develop will absorb more than you can imagine and relay it back to their parents. I remember a teacher in 7th grade stubbed her toe on the front table and said “ah shi—– oooot!” Nice catch. At least she owned up to it and caught herself.
There are so many times where those kids who are now adults look back on those K-12 years and either laugh, cringe, or reminisce. It almost doesn’t matter what your teacher taught, if you couldn’t connect with them or see eye to eye, it’s pointless. Those are the prime years of coming into our own being. You might forget what you learned in class, but you never forget the people who taught you those forgettable lessons. Massive thanks for the ones that didn’t give up on their students and cared about where they went in life after. Even if it didn’t seem like we appreciated you, trust me we definitely remember what you did for us and more than likely can recall your lessons the best.