Over the course of the last couple of years, following a mini-reunion in 2007, I've had conversations with several classmates from my middle school days (it was called junior high back then)...and since my last day of junior high occurred 25 years ago this month, this is as appropriate a time as any to reflect.
When these conversations occur, many stories bubble to the surface...updates on how other former classmates are doing...running into so-and-so recently, and what they're up to...musings on this and that...reflection on those times 25 years after the fact.
In these conversations, old teachers are brought up too. The good...the bad...and the ugly. After 25 years of retrospect, as adults many of us have established a hierarchy in our minds of where the good ones fit in, and we understand why they were good. Their influences are appreciated and in many cases set an example for us to this day.
In most cases the bad, "not so good," or "challenged" teachers are given the benefit of the doubt...it's easy to see, in all fairness, that either they weren't cut out for teaching, and while they may have done some things that they'd get fired for these days, they meant well and were performing to the best of their ability.
Some had bad tempers. For example, there was the one home room teacher who would snap on students and pick them up in their desks...and turn them upside down to dump the student onto the floor...or throw the student across the room in their desk. Sounds harsh? It was...and I even had the privilege of being dumped out of my desk once...but I realize I was probably being difficult, and hold no grudge whatsoever against this teacher. When this man was level-headed, he was reasonable...and fair...and didn't pick favorites...or if he did, he didn't make it obvious.
Then, in these conversations, all roads of discussion seem to lead to a particular P.E. teacher, who we'll refer to as Mr. B. This is where things get REALLY interesting.
Even 25 years after the fact, this teacher represents a point of differing opinions amongst former classmates, and the reason is very simple. Mr. B, who had power and influence over boys and girls in their most critical years of development, played favorites...BIG TIME...and not only did he play favorites, but he bullied those who weren't athletic, focused on using their intellect rather than their brawn, or ~ as I witnessed on occasion ~ called him on his shit.
Mr. B tried to propel his small-time career as a P.E. teacher and coach on the backs of student athletes, and in the process broke the fragile confidence of countless others. He dialed into, and gave only a damn, about the students who could serve his agenda. Everyone else was simply in his way, and you had better stay clear.
God help you if you had no athletic skill...because there was ZERO tolerance if you lacked such abilities. If you tried to stay low and blend in, he'd still find you and expose your weakness. In my case, I was athletic but not at "jock" status (there were several incredible athletes at the school who peaked early), so I was able to blend in the middle somewhere.
Even so, Mr. B still decided that I didn't fit into his larger agenda, and let me know about it...but I knew that anyway, and after some time (and conversation with my folks) decided that I really didn't care what the guy thought, and understood the coward that he was. What's so fascinating about this is that I don't recall doing anything to bring attention to myself with respect to this guy...I pretty much read early on that he was shady, and steered clear. However P.E. in the 7th, 8th, and 9th grade junior high system at the time was mandatory, so sooner or later your path was going to cross with an undesirable teacher such as this guy.
My situation has nothing to do with this post...in this case, I'm simply an observer. I wasn't really affected...but other boys got it far, far worse than me.
I'm here to tell their stories.
...to be continued...