I don’t know if you guys have this experience, but the more I think back on the experiences I had with teachers growing up, the more I start to wonder if some of the quirks I found so endearing in them were grounded in anything resembling sanity.Take, for example, my junior high Spanish teacher, whom I’ll call “Mr. A” just in case he’s still teaching and, you know, some of his activities wind up not actually being legal.
Mr. A had been teaching a long time before I made it to junior high. He’d actually taught my oldest brother, who would come home with stories about the peculiar things Mr. A had done that day. So I already knew the man by reputation before ever starting class with him.
Here’s one quirk: everyone in the class got a nickname, usually a mite embarrassing, frequently terribly long. Mr. A probably spent about ten minutes every day calling roll.
For example, my brother got called “Joe Blow From Kokomo Sucks His Toe All the Way to Mexico.” A buddy of mine got “Coxy Loxy Turkey Lurkey Chicken Little.” Another guy in my class, named Rory, was called “Roar the Snore Bore.”*
Mr. A kept two things of note on his desk. The first was a squirt bottle filled with water. Anyone caught sleeping or mouthing off in class immediately got squirted. Sometimes, if he was feeling particularly bored, Mr. A would just squirt the whole class to liven things up. The closer we got to the end of the school year, the more likely the squirt gun would simply be replaced by an actual squirt gun, or even something with a little more force behind it.
The other possession was the infamous gum jar. If you had gum in your mouth after the bell rang, you had to deposit their gum in the jar. By the end of the year, the jar always accumulated a pretty noticeable pool of saliva at the bottom, and if you think no student ever thought to spike Mr. A’s drink with that accumulation, then you’ve probably never been to a junior high school in the United States. Those incidents usually ended in physical violence.
Did I mention Mr. A always walked around leaning heavily on a golf club? Yeah, if the squirt gun wasn’t dramatic enough, he’d hit the desks of sleeping students. Now, I’m not saying he ever missed, but there were certainly rumors.
Probably the strangest of Mr. A’s many, many idiosyncrasies was his tendency to marry classmates off to each other. If he saw that two students were getting the same score consistently on their homework, he assumed they were studying together. Naturally, if they were studying together, they must be going steady. And if they were going steady, then obviously they’d want to get married, and Mr. A was just the guy to do it.
During the “wedding,” the lovely couple would be forced to stand, as Mr. A recited, verbatim, “By the power vested in me by the state of Utah, HJ high school, and because I damn well want to: Zap! You’re married!”
To get a divorce, the girl would have to bring a note from home, signed by her mother.
The one time I got married, the girl brought the note the very next day. Now, I’m not saying that’s what caused my commitment issues. I’m just saying that junior high is a very sensitive time for many people, and the things that happen to them during those years could have repercussions for decades to come.
*Me? I just got called “Braddy Buns.” And, yes, that is basically the origin of where my online handle came from.