Bad Teacher

May 11, 2013

Slate's article on bad teachers made for a fun read, and like most readers, I suspect I started to probe the old memory banks for bad teachers that I had.

I think I must have wiped the bad ones from my memory over the years, because I came up with lots and lots of really good teachers, spanning all grade levels in four different states. Teachers that I remember as bad were the ones who were too passive to put us smart asses in our place when we needed to be, but even the couple of those who come to mind were nice people, doing their best in a room full of ungrateful, shitty kids. I don't look back on them as bad teachers at all.

Well, maybe one guy.

I had Coach M. three times over the course of about 4 years. I'll tell you two stories.

One year, in a Social Studies class, he made me apologize to the class through a bullhorn that he had brought in from baseball practice. My crime was noisily passing gas during a "work at your desk" exercise.

We had been doing a unit on natural resources, and on one particular day, we were given a difficult circle the word puzzle with the names of several dozen natural resources. We got through most of it, and everyone was stuck on the one or two that they couldn't find, and bored with the whole thing, we started comparing notes to get it finished.

The room started to fill with muffled conversation.

"Do you have solar?"

"Going down and left from the top right."

"Did you get coal?"

Hell, maybe I should have paid more attention. Writing this now, I can only think of a handful of natural resources. I can't imagine how this circle the word could have taken up the last half of a class, but that's how I remember it.

Anyway, my friend Culson was sitting right behind me, and he asked, "Hey Ben, do you have Natural Gas?"

And that's when I let it rip.

The timing and volume were perfect. And then, I couldn't stop myself from uncontrollable laughter. For many minutes. (I was a seventh grader.)

I was admittedly very distracting, and it wasn't long before everyone was demanding to know what bit of hilarity they had missed.

Class must have been just about over, because Coach M instructed me to go home and prepare an apology to be read to the class the next day. That gave him a chance to bring the bullhorn in from wherever they hid baseball gear.

So that one's on me.

But a couple of years later, Coach M had the worst teaching episode that I remember.

He had been assigned a health class, and his room was moved out to a mobile-home turned classroom outside of the main school building.

One day, our assignment was to write down what we didn't like about our bodies. He would read them, but he would keep the information in the papers confidential. He wanted us to be completely honest with ourselves.

We finished that, turned them in, and he started reading the papers as we went to work on something else. Probably a circle-the-word page with all of the venereal diseases. The room was quiet, and he would chime in every now and then with something like, "You'll get there, Peterson." I even got a "Hang in there Schultzey."

And then, he told us to listen as he started reading one of the papers aloud. It was a very good piece of writing where the girl divulged her insecurities in a comical way. He was praising the writing, and he didn't name the author, but the beet-red face of one student made it clear to all who was ashamed of her widening behind.

And even though the tone was light-hearted, the room was silent. It was certainly the most awkward situation I had witnessed up to that point. I want to crawl under the Regal Beagle bar as I type this.

I can't believe I learned what gonorrhea was from Coach M. My notion of it is probably entirely wrong.