Every now and then I think back about a teacher that I had growing up and wonder to myself, “I wonder if they could do that again without getting fired.” I think maybe we can collectively agree that teachers are just people and they have an extremely difficult job because 1. there’s not always a lot of respect, 2. there never a lot of pay, and 3. they get bored, tired, frustrated, and angry with their jobs/coworkers/kids (yes, the kids) just like anyone would BUT any lesson, response to bad behavior, or quirkiness considered too ‘out of the box’ might have that wound-up, protective, and slightly insane mother calling for a witch hunt. Yet, here in my memory are all these teachers, behaviors, and lessons that seem risky (at best). Did we get soft on these champions of education over the years, or were teachers just more brave back then?
1. Ms. A – or She Who Shall Not Be Named
1. Let’s start with my 5th grade teacher. Ms. A. I don’t want to use real names because that’s not always cool. Anyway, in 5th grade there were two 5th grade teacher and you had one of them for the majority of your classes and maybe you’d switch for math or something like that. You didn’t know who you were going to get, but every single kid growing up in that school knew one thing: you did NOT want to get Ms. A. She had a reputation for being mean which is scary for little kids. Oh and don’t call her “Mrs. A.” because she wasn’t married and if you got that wrong she slapped your pinky toe with a yardstick. (not really)
So what happened?
She kicked the garbage can. That’s it. She had a few legendary stories surrounding her that always involved her losing her cool and taking it out on the thick aluminum garbage can next to her desk. Now, let me be clear, I never saw her kick the garbage can myself, but there was no doubt in our little minds that this was a common occurrence. When I found out that I had Ms. A. for 5th grade I was terrified and the very first time I walked into her classroom, the very first thing I looked for was, you guessed it, the garbage can. And there it was, plain as day, dented up and mangled like it had seen more than one trip down the hard, marble stairs. She didn’t ever have to kick that can. In our minds we were always one whisper, passed note, or dropped pencil away from witnessing the full wrath of her might and power.
It turns out Ms. A. wasn’t really mean. She was a good teacher who was stern and had a loud booming voice. To kids this equals “mean”, but thinking back on it as I often have, I’ve realized that she wasn’t mean at all and it’s possible she never did kick that garbage can. In fact, I like to entertain the idea that she purposefully dented up her garbage can to keep those rumors fresh which makes me think she was either a genius for taking advantage of rumors to instill a bit better behavior from students OR….HOLY SMOKES she wanted to be the terror of the school……… dun dun dun…
Mr. H. – The Bricklayer
H is for History. I had this History teacher that was an interesting guy. He seemed to enjoy teaching history and he seemed to enjoy being a Smart Alec.
So it seems normal that he kept two bricks in one of his desk drawers. Wait, no. No that’s not normal and neither is the reasons.
Brick #1 was a real brick. It was one of those reddish/brown bricks with three holes down the center. I’m guessing it weighed about 7 or 8 lbs and it looked like this:
So what happened?
What Mr. H. would do with Brick 1 is when people were just kind of drifting off or getting sleepy or if the class was quietly forming little groups of whispered conversation, he’d take the brick out of his desk and drop it on the metal filing cabinet it was stored in. The loud bang always made people jump and always jolted us back into the lesson. Not so bad.
Brick #2 was a fake brick. It was slightly larger than the real one and though it looked almost identical it was made of foam. What Mr. H. would do is when just ONE person was being distracting or disruptive he would work in their name into whatever sentence he was saying. Usually this sentence would start out normal speaking volume but he’d become increasingly intense so that by the time he said the person’s name he was shouting. Then, just as the distracted person noticed they were being called out in class, Mr. H. would dramatically open the desk drawer, grab the fake brick and throw it at that individual. Ha!
I always thought it was funny. I also never had the brick thrown at me. But when he opened that bottom drawer in his cabinet you never knew which brick he was going to smite you with. And while I think this is a pretty harmless prank to pull on a class/student, consider that any foam object would be sufficient to get a student’s attention.
I figure he either wanted to put a little extra scare into his prank OR he secretly wanted to throw a real brick at some students! But could you still do that today? Maybe he is STILL doing that today.
Mr. M. – Murderer?
Mr. Math was a cool teacher. He taught high level math but he was also one of the cool coaches so the nerds liked him because he was smart and the jocks liked him because though they couldn’t get into his class they might have him for baseball or something. He taught my calculus class. Calculus is kind of a weird math – it deals with math so complicated that you need a special calculator capable of spelling all the cuss words without having to flip it upside down.
So one particular lesson was on the math associated with decomposing bodies and forensic science. At the beginning of class Mr. M. announced that he had a buddy on the police force coming into the class to explain how calculus was used to solve murders. But he told us that he had spoken with his buddy before school that day and that his friend would be late due to a crime scene. This crime was to investigate a dead body that had been discovered the night before…hence the lateness.
So what happened?
About 1/2 way through class, Mr. M. stepped out of the class to check up on his friend (by phone?) and when he came back he informed the class that his friend from the force would not be joining the class due to needing to work on the case of this corpse that was most likely a murder.
Near the end of class, Mr. M. was acting perturbed that his buddy couldn’t make it to class and was saying something like “they probably won’t even be able to catch the murderer” and that kind of thing. He seemed genuinely upset. After a comment about murderers getting away he walked up to the chalk board and started writing math things on the board. I noticed at this point, that Mr. M had a gun tucked in the back waist band of his pants. No joke. A gun. He probably only had his back to us for a total of 5 seconds before the bell rang and everyone emptied out without a word. He never said anything about it again. Not a word. Sometimes I wonder if I just imagined it.
But I didn’t. In fact, I figured it out later that we had all been duped and there was no friend and the whole thing (aside from the actual math) was a prank. Still, nobody ever said anything about it and he didn’t either. It was perfect!
Perfect except for the fact that he put a starter pistol (what you use to start a track race) in his pants pretending to be a murderer. In a public school. Yeah…
Mr. B. – Can the rumors be true?
This teacher was crazy. What I’m about to share is all rumor. I didn’t witness any of the following stories, but I believe them to be true. He really was insane…and maybe one of the best teachers I had in high school.
Mr. B. was a social issues teacher. This means his class talked about everything from abortion to politics to the legalization of weed. The class involved a lot of looking at newspapers and having discussions where nothing was deemed right or true but open to interpretation and arguing. That was the class. The teacher, Mr. B. was kind of crazy. First of all, he drove this:
So what happened?
Rumor 1: It was rumored that one day he came into class and was purposefully acting agitated. He walked around opening desk drawers and slamming them shut murmuring something about I don’t know what. He ends this tirade by opening a desk drawer, pulling out a track and field starter pistol and fires it off in class. This was his introduction to the topic of gun control. This is absolutely insane. I can just imagine someone having a nervous breakdown immediately after this object lesson.
Rumor 2: A buddy of mine once told me of a time that he had been excused from one of his classes to use the restroom. He then went into the restroom outside of Mr. B’s class (not intentionally, just because it was close) and proceeded to go #2. As he’s “going,” Mr. B walks in, looks at him, sitting there on the pot, laughs, and then walks out.
Now he wasn’t spying on him. The bathrooms in our school didn’t have doors on the stalls. Yes, you read that correctly. School bathroom – no doors. I don’t know if that still flies today but it’s the #1 reason why you NEVER went #2 at school [puns, anyone?]. But why would a teacher do that? Because a student in the class saw my buddy first and then told the teacher and I guess Mr. B. just had to see it for himself.
You don’t think that those could be true and I don’t blame you because if a teacher did that nowadays I’m almost certain he’d get canned. BUT everyone is a bit more sensitive these days as well so it seems unimaginable that a teacher would act in a way that your crazy uncle Gary would if he were teaching your class.
So this one’s for you, crazy teachers of my past who got away with crazy stuff. Because you made class weird and maybe a little bit scary but still managed to teach us things and keep it interesting!
1. I had a math teacher who had us grade each others’ homework and tests every time. Because of this and because I always traded papers with the same friend, we always gave each other As. This is how I ended up in the accelerated math course.