My guest blogger today is Paul Waters, and he is one of the very first people I met when I landed in the blogosphere. Paul is originally from Belfast, but this guy has slept around! I mean, he’s lived in England, Romania, Wales, the United States, Germany, Poland, South Africa, and both ends of Ireland.
For his teacher memory, Paul went off-roading. Instead of writing about just one teacher, he wrote about a few: one good, one bad, and one naughty. Half the fun is in figuring out which is who.
Check out Paul’s fantastic blog HERE. And follow him at Twitter at @VillageIP. He’s quite brilliant.
• • •
The Good, the Bad and the Naughty
1. Mr. T. taught me in Primary 4, so I was eight or nine years old. That age when you open your mouth and embarrassing things come out. Like the time I absent-mindedly addressed him as Mummy. The shame.
Mr. T. blamed me for losing the blackboard duster. But it wasn’t my fault.
This is what happened.
Mr. T. used to prowl the classroom sneaking a peek at everyone’s packed lunch. If he saw a shiny chocolate bar wrapper or some cake, he’d pounce and snaffle it. Does that count as bullying? Abuse? Theft? Or was he simply an early adopter of the notion that schoolchildren should only eat healthy food like fruit and vegetables?
I decided he wasn’t getting his thick fingers on my lunch, so when he came snooping, I closed my lunchbox and ducked away. A chase ensued – much to the amusement of the rest of the class. He was big but lumbering. I was nippy and kept out of reach.
In exasperation, he threw the duster at me. It was a habit of his – a way to get the attention of boys who were nodding off. But he already had my full attention. I didn’t want to get clobbered by the chalky duster with the hard wooden handle – so I ducked.
The duster flew past me and out the first floor window. Down to where a new lady teacher was being shown round by our gruff headmaster.
He wasn’t pleased to be clonked on the shoulder by a flying wooden duster.
Apparently it was all my fault. For ducking.
• • •
2. Mr G. had a white sports car. It was very unusual and very low slung for Belfast. Very daring, in fact, because with all the ramps around the city (at army and police checkpoints) he risked having the chassis ripped off any time he went for a drive. I imagine he drove gingerly rather than speedily.
Mr G. looked a real character – long hair, flared trousers, colourful jacket. He wasn’t podgy like most male teachers either. There was definitely something about him. He was eye-catching. He wore a long Afghan coat. His appearance, and the rumours about him, hinted at after-school involvement in the music scene and clubs.
He was a living embodiment of the alternative possibilities to keeping your head down and choosing the safe route.
• • •
3. Mr. W. was a foreigner, teaching his native language to eager students. It was that all too rare scenario where every pupil paid attention all of the time.
One pupil prided himself on having read more in the language than the rest and considered himself to be a cut above. In fact, he wanted to be a teacher himself. With that aspiration in mind, he was not slow to correct Mr. W. when he felt the need. This led to some interesting exchanges.
Keep in mind that the student in question had never been to a country where the language being taught was spoken. Nor had he previously met a native speaker.
Nevertheless, he didn’t let that stop him from displaying his “superior” knowledge and forcefully disagreeing with Mr. W. at every opportunity.
In recognition of this pupil’s commanding performance, Mr. W decided to “reward” him with a long list of “advanced vocabulary” to learn – colloquial similes.
Naturally, the outstanding student was delighted to be singled out in this way and enthusiastically learned it all – the better to regale the rest of us with his knowledge.
You may meet this student some day. You’ll know it when you hear him repeat the phrase: “as round as a Spaniard.” Or maybe: “as happy as a cupboard.”
Yes. I’m sorry to say that Mr. W. had wreaked vengeance by creating a completely fake list.
So which is which? Who’s the good one? Who’s the bad one? And who’s the naughty one?
• • •
The good one is Mr T. When he wasn’t throwing dusters, whacking boys with rulers or stealing their lunches, he was inspiring, charismatic and enthusiastic.
The bad one is Mr. G. He cared a lot about cutting a dash, but hardly at all about the children in his class. They stewed and stagnated while he dreamed. Their dreams were put on hold.
Which means the naughty one was Mr. W. He abused his position to mislead a student whose only offence was being seriously annoying and outrageously arrogant. (Okay, two offences then.) On the other hand, the precocious student of English as a foreign language was basing his “expertise” solely on Polish and Russian textbooks. And creating and giving to him the list of fake similes was tremendous fun.
And I haven’t done it again since I left my teaching post in Poland.
Still laugh about it though.
Which of your teachers were real characters? Did any of them play tricks on you? Throw something at you? Who showed you the good, the bad and the naughty?
• • •
If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.
If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!
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I love this series…… my class read a story from Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl. The story was about a prep school in the early 20s, a dead mouse, a candy shop, and a consequence. Hilarious fun. I think I have had all three teachers at one point or another.
He’s a great writer – his writing hut is in a village not too far from where I live. I’ve taken my children to run around his garden – it opens once a year.
Sixth class teacher. Mr Vague….. the name says it all.
So what I’m getting from you is a sense that you are trying to tell me something, but now that I think about it a little more, it is possible that this is not the case at all.
I laughed so loudly while reading this, I woke the monkeys! This is so great. And really makes me reflect on my own educational experiences, both as student and teacher. Thanks, as always, for sharing.
Apologies to your monkeys.
Here’s my experience with a teacher throwing something at the class.
Once some student poured hydrochloric acid into my middle school science teacher’s fish tank. All of his fish slowly exploded.
Of course, he was furious.
But this teacher had a glass eye, so it was really hard to tell who he was looking at as he screamed at us. I felt so guilty — even though I hadn’t done anything. Finally, he chucked an eraser at the class. It hit the back wall and left a chalky mark. Then he burst into tears.
He loved those fish.
We were the bad ones on that day.
Oh, that is a bad one. Poor fish.
Our chemistry class used to take place in a mobile classroom on a grassy slope by one of the entrances to the main school building. On one memorable day, a student started a fire in the waste paper bin by the classroom door. Sensibly the teacher sent us all to the opposite corner and ordered us out the fire exit.
There should have been steps – but weren’t.
So we jumped, landed and rolled down the muddy slope… to come to a dishevelled halt in front of a group of smart visitors from the nearby posh school. From the other side of the religious divide which probably made it more embarrassing still.
Still – they probably weren’t thinking of transferring to us anyway.
I remember a French class with Mr Manuel back in eleventh grade or so. Duane Wright just burst out: “We have 15 days of school left!” Mr. Manuel being — cool and collected — said something like, “That’s enough Duane.” About 5 minutes went by and Duane forcefully says, “There are 100 hours of school left!” Mr Manuel, a bit upset said, “No more!” Another 5 minutes goes by and Duane a bit more tentatively says, “There are 6000 more minutes of school left.” Mr Manuel, about to lose it, yells directly at Duane: “Once more and you’re out of here!!” About 5 more minutes goes by and Duane, sure enough says: “There are only 360,000 seconds of school left for the year!!!”
Mr. Manuel totally lost control. Grabbed a stack of books and threw them into the blackboard.
Jeff Keeler and I, never seeing a show like this before, rightfully laughed uncontrollably.
After sending Duane to the principals, Mr. Manuel informed the lot of us that one more outburst of laughs and he was going to send that hoodlum to the office too. Well, I made some kind of face to Keeler, and he lost it. True to his word, he sent Jeff on his way.
I just stood up and told him: “I best go too.”
That’s my story of a teacher gone mad.
Hopefully I have the names of all the hoodlums right, maybe some of my schoolmates can confirm this scenario. Thanks
I like the idea of you volunteering for expulsion – putting both you and your teacher out of your misery. Maybe you should have been awarded merit points for consideration.
I tormented poor Madame Whorrall the same way in middle school. To be fair, we all did.
My name was always on the board under the number: 2.40.
We all knew what 2.40 meant: detention.
Loved this. I went to a boarding school and had a Mr. M. Mr. M would now be accused of sexual harassment as he used to snap our bras….
He was from Scotland and he also threw the duster. His rage was well-known but not necessarily taken seriously. He was adored by the guys and hated by the girls. I recently received an apology from Mr. M. for perhaps making my life more difficult than it had to be in a boarding school situation.
He continues to be a legend at that small boarding school in Pakistan!
He wouldn’t last long these days in the UK.
Or the US. 😉
Great post! I loved the ending where we find out that you were Mr. W! Priceless!
I had a crazy teacher in 7th grade who tormented all the boys. He was very handsome with his long curly hair, (this was at a Catholic school and it was the early 70’s) and we were all cast under his spell.
Do you think that revelation will make it harder for me to go to the classroom? (Just remembered – I am going back next week – but only as a mentor.)
Oh, the memories. My first year German teacher was a character. He was “Werner Klemperer aka Colonel Wilhelm Klink of Hogan’s Heros”, or at least he looked just like him minus the monacle, but we had to call him Herr Brown. He made learning a new language fun. Never a dull moment. He’d keep you involved by actually having you participate in interesting ways. Example: If you forgot the proper word or phrase, out would come his invisible violin which he would pretend to play while a sad expression came across his face. It was always good for a chuckle. It seemed to me his pretended sadness was more to indicate his failure as a teacher rather than to point out a failure on the part of the student. Just as quickly, the violin would go away and we’d be off to a new adventure in learning a language. Herr Brown knew how to be a character and get you to learn.
Wonder if the French teacher produced an invisible accordion – and the Spanish teacher a pair of… castanets?
I really enjoyed reading this post! Thanks for sharing! I wish I had some interesting stories to tell about my teachers. I wish I had an interesting story to tell about myself as a teacher. =)
Random observation: All of the teachers mentioned in the story and in the comments so far are men. Why is that? (Maybe your answer would explain why I don’t have a fun story to tell, being a female teacher…) =)
Perhaps women teachers are more conscientious? (It’s okay to generalise in a positive way, isn’t it?) Or maybe the bad behaviour involving women teachers tends to come from the pupils.
I recall a primary 3 teacher – Mrs Hunter – austere, old, bit scary – who used to say: “I’ll hippopotamous you!” or it might have been rhinocerous – if we got some spelling wrong. Can’t quite remember why.
I think she belonged to the “never smile before Christmas” school of thought. (Or even, ever.)
In the US, women have historically dominated the teaching profession.
Perhaps all the kookiness is remembered in the male teachers because they were rare. Like exotic birds or something.
Alas, female teachers are practically cliché, especially in the most impressionable years — those elementary school grades. You know, the first caregivers away from Mummy.
Ooops, sorry to bring that up again, Paul.
Yeah, thanks a bunch.
Very entertaining. Paul has reawoken some amusing memories of our former primary school! Hope you’re keeping well.
Ooooh! Paul, methinks Miss Catherine McGuiness has a wee crush on you. 😉
Aren’t old friends the best?
Do you know – I don’t think she has.
Not if she’s the Catherine I think she is.
(Just having a wee laugh there. Right. Have composed myself.)
Hi Catherine. What about ye?
“Mr. W.” — Paul, you are, indeed, wicked! 🙂
I think you were the good teacher! That was a very fun way to teach that kid a lesson. One of my own children tends to be like that…a know-it-all…I would be grateful for a teacher who put her in her place! ;D PS
I love the surprise ending.
It was fun for me anyway.
I have a couple of brain boxes at home too, who are on a protracted campaign to catch me out. So far I’m ahead… just.