Hot for Teacher

(Oh God, this one of those stupid walls of text: sorry.)

Photo from Panoramio.

That's a picture of Cottingham Stadium, "Home of the Red Rovers." This was supposed to be a "WTF!? Friday" about high school football. But while I was looking for pictures of the stadium, and then my high school, and then people I went to high school with, somewhere along the way I took a very sharp left turn and ended up discovering through my awesome Google-fu (and also patience, as this information was buried several pages deep in the links) that one of my very favorite teachers from high school is now a visiting faculty member at Wilkes University.

This doesn't surprise me in the least -- when I think back on his class (which was actually 8th grade, not technically high school, and perhaps that makes this story better, in a way), I always remember how much smarter he always seemed than any of my other teachers. Although I could not have possibly known it at the time, having never seen the movie (because I was a good girl and also I don't think we had a VCR, and I know for sure that we didn't have HBO), this teacher was very much Donald-Sutherland-in-Animal-House, albeit without the drugs ... I think. He certainly never encouraged me to use any, for whatever that is worth.

One thing I remember is how he loved shaking up the "establishment" of Enriched kids. This teacher used to change his seating chart every 5 weeks, based on your placement in the class. Students with better grades ended up in the back of the room, and the ones who needed more help were in the front. I transferred into his class two weeks into the marking period, so I ended up in the front by default, which is where all these "gifted" kids who had known each other since elementary school thought I belonged. I was practically a foreigner to them, and they all thought I was beneath them (especially the girl who would eventually become the Salutatorian of our class, who quite frankly I never thought was anything less than a bitch, anyway -- funny how the uber-religious turn out like that, isn't it?).

Anyway. I was only in class for three weeks before the seating change. Other students in the class used to snigger at me when I had to diagram sentences on the chalkboard, because rather than just do what I was asked, I always had follow-up questions: what if there is a semi-colon? what if that "if" is changed to "when"? wouldn't it just make more sense to turn this mess into two separate sentences, instead of this compound-complex monstrosity with passive voice and verb tense problems? The other kids hated it -- secretly I think most of the time they had NO IDEA what I was talking about -- but I know my teacher loved it.

Which is why he made a Very Big Deal out of the fact that, when he did the first classroom re-org in October, I ended up in the far back corner, the seat reserved for "Patient Zero," as he called me. I stayed in that seat for the entire rest of the school year, which just about pissed everyone right off.

That was the point at which I decided that these people might have more money than me, and they might be prettier than me, and they might have more friends and fancier pedigrees and maybe they might even actually be better than me, but by God: I was fucking smarter than all these bitches.

So I suppose you can see why I haven't been to a high school reunion yet. Been out of high school for 17 years, and I am still bitter.

Oh, what did I learn in that class? Don't remember. We read Great Expectations and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and wrote papers on the meaning of life (mine was "live well, laugh often, love much"). Mostly I recall this teacher very fondly because he was the first adult who treated me, even at 13 years old, like a Person with Potential and not just some punk kid. He empowered me, demanded that I work harder and be smarter and think different, and even though I can't always put an exact finger on what he taught me, I still can tell you exactly what his greatest lesson was:

Girl? You are fucking awesome, and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise, because you and I? We know the Truth.

And when I have those days when I want to quit my crappy cubicle job, when I get disgusted because my scratch-and-win early retirement plan isn't working, and when I think about what I want to do "when I grow up," when I am ready to have a job that my daughter and my husband can be proud of me for?

On those days, I want to be an 8th grade English teacher, just like Mr. Grier. Because he stepped in and saved me before it was too late, and I can't think of any better want to repay the favor than to be just like him.

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