Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Thanks, Oddballs

Quite honestly, I had some pretty bad teachers during my pre-college (that is to say “free”) educational career. In second grade, I had Mrs. Harold who, I swear, was Mr. Magoo in drag only with bigger, rounder glasses. My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Payne, would prance around the room like Lawrence Welk on lithium and then scream at the top of his lungs when he wanted our attention. It worked. Sixth grade brought Mrs. Fontaine who always wore these gigantic fake fingernails that she inadvertently flicked into Sam Haymon’s hot lunch one day. He almost ate the thing, and I don’t believe he would have noticed if Christy Schlotski hadn’t flipped out and run from the room as if a giant booger had landed on one of her puffy sweaters – Sam’s love for all things gastronomical was surpassed only by his unrequited love for Christy.

Fast forward to high school: I’m fairly certain that my Geometry teacher drank . . . a great deal. Based on having to deal with just a handful of the kids in my class alone, I can’t say I blame her, but that’s another discussion for another day. While she never showed up for school wearing her underwear on the outside of one of her three polyester pant suits (burnt orange, pastel blue, and earth brown), she displayed the classic behaviors of slurred speech (which is probably what kept her from teaching English also), mood swings, and the avoidance of bright lights. My Economics teacher’s idea of giving us proper instruction on the inner workings of the New York Stock Exchange was to show us the movie “Trading Places” from start to finish. Isn’t tenure a wonderful thing!

While we would all prefer to decry the shortcomings of tax-payer-funded institutions – especially when we’re waiting in line for two hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles – we all have to give a nod to the public school system and say, “Well done!” Despite the fact these learning experiences don’t quite live up to sitting at the feet of Socrates and Aristotle, I believe I survived and came out of “the system” prepared to face the world. Why? Because that’s REAL LIFE. These experiences, good or bad, prepare you to deal with all sorts of oddballs that come across or even completely block your path in life – and I’m not just talking about your college professors.

When your refrigerator’s ice maker stops working, or you need to replace the muffler on your 1987 Honda Civic, you go to someone who probably didn’t attend an east-coast prep school or aced the SAT’s math and verbal sections. But you can probably bet good money that they were smart enough to NOT let a public education stop them. Further, you’re not likely to see a group of men and women gathered around a table at a technical school reviewing applications and saying, “Gosh, this kid looks like he could be a promising BMW master mechanic, but either his English teacher was ineffective in teaching him the subtleties of Beowulf or he’s just not smart enough to get it. Either way, I think he’s too big a risk.” Free education has value!

The next time you’re driving down the highway behind someone who’s driving an SUV the size of a third-world country, talking on a cell phone with the attitude that he’s the center of the universe, and traveling at least fifteen miles an hour below the speed limit in the fast lane, the first thought that’s going to come to mind is, “What’s this cat’s deal? He’s driving like he owns the road!” Truth is, he probably has enough money to own it, and he probably paid way too much for his education – you can’t buy IQ!

1 comment:

Karen K said...


As usual, your article gave me a great laugh today. Of course, we had some of the same teachers, so I can vouch entirely for the odd behaviors that you described (funny how I knew exactly who you were talking about). Nothing like watching your teacher remove and reapply her fake fingernails while the class is taking a test - YUCK! We also had the same drunk Geometry teacher - ah, High School. Anyway, still love reading your blog...keep up the good work!

Take care,