Tag Archives: teacher

1879. Really, really dumb

Let’s face it: Melvyn was dumb. Even his teacher, who tried her best to be nice, thought he was dumb. “Your child is dumb,” she said to Melvyn’s parents. “Really, really dumb.” It made no difference, because Melvyn took after his parents. They were dumb too.

His teacher would spend half an hour explaining to her students why grass was green, and at the end of all this Melvyn would put up his hand and ask, “Miss, why is grass green?” Not just dumb, but aggravating. Away with the fairies.

His exercise books were incomprehensible. They were a mess of doodles and numbers. Call that arithmetic? Goodness gracious! The sooner this child left school and got a job clearing the city’s sewerage system the better.

Then one day, Melvyn put up his hand and asked the teacher, “What happens if, when you loop one quantum particle around another, you don’t get back to the same quantum state?”

The teacher told Melvyn to get back to doing his work.

Let’s face it: the teacher was dumb. Even Melvyn, who tried his best to be nice, thought she was dumb. “My teacher is dumb,” Melvyn said to his parents. “Really, really dumb.”

And indeed she was – in more ways than one.

1817. A close shave

It was a total give-away when Garth, while setting the table for dinner, nonchalantly said, “It depends on the brand, Ida.”

Garth’s statement was in response to his wife’s question of “Do you want some tomato sauce with dinner?” The problem was, Garth’s wife’s name was Sylvia, not Ida. Sylvia, who was suspicious at the best of times, cottoned on to it immediately. The Ida referred to would inevitably be Ida Brocklehurst who was a teacher’s assistant at the school where Garth taught Biology. Clearly they were having an affair. Why else would he so matter-a-factly trot out the name of Ida if they weren’t carrying on a rampant and sweaty undercover plot of fornication?

“Why did you call me Ida?” asked Sylvia in a voice that both quaked with fear and yet had all the vehemence of someone who already intended to sue for divorce.

“I have no idea,” said Garth. “It just came out.”

Garth came up with an immediate plan. “I think we should both have our ears tested,” he said. “They provide a free hearing test at the pharmacy.”

“Why do we need a hearing test?” demanded Sylvia.

“Because I didn’t call you Ida. I said It depends on the brand, my dear. ”

“Oh, how silly of me,” said Sylvia now slightly embarrassed and in recovery mode.

Garth was relieved. He couldn’t wait to tell Ida in the morning. And somehow he had to stop Sylvia from getting her hearing tested.

1796. Chocolates for grandparents

Now children, it’s a day to celebrate your grandparents. Grandparents Day! I never had a grandparent myself. They were all dead before I was born except for one grandmother and she was really nasty. In fact, she was in prison for poisoning my grandfather. She poisoned him by injecting weed-killer into homemade chocolates. I was always jealous of those who had proper grandparents. I hated it when other kids talked about their grandparents and how nice they were.

Anyway, I want those who have four grandparents living nearby to form a line here. And those with three grandparents living nearby to form a line here. Those with two grandparents living nearby to form a line here. Those with one grandparent living nearby to form a line here. And those with no grandparents can go outside and play.

I have a basket of chocolates and, depending on what line you are in, you are to take one, two, three, or four chocolates. After school today I want you to go and visit your grandparents and surprise them with a chocolate each for Grandparents’ Day.

I made the chocolates myself using a recipe my grandmother used.

1795. Future classroom dialogue – c. 2162 CE

Student: Excuse me Miss. Do we really have to study this?

Ms. Honeybun: Yes, Zenith. It’s written by a great writer. It will stretch your imagination. It will open your eyes to possibilities.

Student: But we have already studied his novel and poems, and now we’re expected to study his short stories. Why can’t we study someone interesting, like Shakespeare or Emily Bronte or Thorkel X. Kaftan. (Note: Thorkel X. Kaftan didn’t appear on the literary scene until around 2098 CE).

Ms. Honeybun: Shakespeare is so very yesterday and greatly overrated. In my opinion we are studying the greatest writer since Euripides.

Student: But Euripides wrote plays. This stupid idiot didn’t write plays.

Ms. Honeybun: He’s not a stupid idiot, Zenith. And oh yes, he did write plays. His plays are the next thing on the syllabus we will be studying.

Student: I hate having things shoved down my throat.

Ms. Honeybun: When you are older you will thank me for having so forcibly introduced you to this lustrous author. Euripides and Bruce Goodman are undoubtedly the two greatest writers in the history of the world.

Second Student: Speaking on behalf of the rest of the class, we simply adore what you are teaching us, Miss Honeybun.

Ms. Honeybun: Thank you, Echinacea. I’m glad most of the class recognize greatness when they see it. Now could you please all turn to Story 1795: Future classroom dialogue.

Footnote: See the links at the top of the blog page!

1734. A misplaced apostrophe

(The other day someone pointed out that I had a misplaced apostrophe. This story is to express my gratitude.)

A change is as good as a holiday said Arnie. He was a hitman and was sick to death of poisoning people. This new assignment should provide a bit of variety. Not that he wasn’t good at poisoning; it was his speciality. It was why he received most of his jobs. He had a reputation for poisoning.

But this new assignment not only paid well, but provided a welcome change.

Extremely rich parents of a spoilt teen – in this case a boy – had sent him to an exclusive private school. The boy – whose name was Constantine – was a star sportsman. He was the brightest baseball hope the school had had in years. He was headed for professionalism and the Baseball Hall of Fame. How proud could parents be?

The trouble was that Constantine’s English teacher was a crabby old bag. She was a stickler for correct punctuation no matter what. Misplaced apostrophes were her greatest hate. The over use of the exclamation mark was another error to be condemned. (Not that Constantine, being a sportsman, bothered to use the exclamation mark!) A dash was not a comma; a semicolon was not the same as a colon. Constantine would mess up his punctuation just to annoy the living daylights out of her. It worked too well.

When Constantine was due to attend a Baseball Summer Camp, Ms Virginia Funk – for that was the teacher’s name – wrote to the Summer Camp and said, “Constantine’s outstanding contribution to schoolboy baseball is in inverse proportion to his application to his studies. I would recommend he not be accepted into the Summer Baseball Camp.”

The Baseball Summer Camp, having too many applicants, denied Constantine’s application. And that is why Arnie was hired as a hitman. Ms Virginia Funk was dead meat. She would have no reason to prepare classes for the following academic year. Arnie’s problem was that – Ms Virginia Funk being an English teacher – he wanted to get rid of her in creative a fashion as possible; for variety is the spice of life.

First, he would make her stew a bit. He sent her a handwritten note that said “Its you’re last day.” Virginia was outraged. There should be an apostrophe in “It’s”, she declared. That’s when Arnie saw red. His creativity could wait for another day. He took his bag of poisonous chemicals, knocked on her door, changed his mind, and shot her point blank.

He was well paid. And although some might think that Constantine’s parents and Arnie were a bit over the top, at least Ms Virginia Funk didn’t suffer needlessly.

1700. The hand we’re dealt

Look at that! 1700 is a round number if ever there was one! Usually for such a significant number I deviate into some true narrative or other. This time I’ve hit a complete blank. I don’t believe in “writer’s block” but I must admit that these last ten or so postings have been like trying to get blood out of a stone. I wanted to get to Story 1700 before Christmas and then have some time off until sometime in the New Year. And so I’ve drawn a blank. Let me think…

Well I’ve thought of something… but I don’t know if I should chat about it or not. Counting up it happened 33 years ago!

The photo incidentally is not of what I am going to talk about – it’s of another group unknown to me, but it gives the general drift.

I dare say those involved have long since moved on. I was teaching Music and English at St John’s High School in Hastings, New Zealand. Hastings had a pretty “varied” population. St John’s High School was a boys-only school and the only High School in the city that would accept students who had been expelled from other schools and couldn’t find another school to attend. That’s how I ended up teaching a class of 24, 14 of whom had a “history”. They were all aged 14. Montzie, for example, had a criminal record since the age of six.

The school didn’t have a great number of resources. My classroom was an old shed set apart from all other classrooms and in the middle of a field. We called the shed “The Shack”. The record player and all the stuff for music were in The Shack. The trouble was: The Shack couldn’t be locked. I told the class that if anything was ever stolen from this shack I’d “have their guts for garters”. (I also had to explain what garters were).

“Don’t worry,” they said, “we’d never steal from you.” We were the only school Music Department in the whole city that hadn’t had all its electronic equipment go missing. And then it happened. One night, the classroom was stripped. The policeman was very nice about it. He took notes and said he’d keep an eye out. That wasn’t good enough for Montzie and friends. Did not the policeman want to know the names of those who took the stuff? Did not the policeman want to know the place in the city where these thieves stored their stolen goods? The policeman was kind of stunned!

With such information it still took six months for the police to act. In the meantime insurance paid for new equipment and when our goods were returned we had two of everything. And Reuben, a master of the “five-finger discount”, would most days bring five or six long-playing records that he’d “got from the shops during lunch break” to replace the records stolen. I explained it was wrong. It was above his comprehension. He was helping out. (And I might add that not even the shops wanted to know because the packaging had been removed).

Many other things happened during the year which can wait another time, except to say I am a master pickpocketer; for they passed on skills you wouldn’t believe. I was never party to their activity, but they were surviving in the only world they knew.

The highlight came when I was selected (because I was pretty good at it) to represent New Zealand at an International Youth Theatre Festival – with theatre performances from Germany, England, India, South Korea, Australia, United States and New Zealand. It was inordinately expensive to get a theatre team to the festival and to survive a week. That is when I started to write little musicals for elementary schools and market them. Within two easy weeks, we had enough money to travel. I suggested we do a performance about New Zealand’s many endangered species. And would you believe? The class wanted to dance it, and from all the five-finger discount stolen records to dance to they chose extracts from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé”. At least I’d taught them something!

It was street-dancing. They did the choreography themselves. It was an outstanding hit! The boys were so well behaved and more charming than I could believe. At the end of the performance the audience didn’t clap; they stood and sang a song they all knew. It was very moving. The newspaper reviews were stunning.

I dare say these kids would be heading for their mid-forties now. Those who aren’t dead are possibly in prison. I know a couple have done murders and some are destroyed by drugs. A teacher can’t keep in touch with everyone.

But they were one of the nicest and most talented group of kids I’ve ever taught. A pity they weren’t dealt much of a hand.

(A Happy Christmas and New Year to all! See you some time in 2020!)

1678. Fatty next door

Fatty Brown, who happens to live next door to me, is a know-all. I showed him one of my stories and he said I was wasting my time. As if he knows. He thinks he knows everything. You’d think he’d try to be more positive.

Anyway he’s so fat that when he gets into his swimming pool there’s no water left. I don’t know what he eats but he’s not only fat, he’s gross. He obviously doesn’t clean his teeth properly. And his dress sense is disgusting. If he’d dress like they did in the nineteen seventies he’d be more fashionable. Mind you, flares on a fat man is asking for trouble.

Fatty said my story needed more punch, but I didn’t want it to have punch. As I said when he criticized it, if you don’t like my story why don’t you write one yourself. I only showed it to him because he once had a poem published in some magazine so I thought he might know what I could do with my story. That’s the last time I’m going to show Fatty anything.

God, I hate some of my teachers.

1633. A salutary lesson

Hugo was a teacher of the old school. He believed that students were born with empty heads and it was his job to stuff knowledge into them. SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LEARN.

Guntar was a teacher of more contemporary times. He believed students were born with heads full of knowledge. It was his job to gently draw knowledge out. Good morning everyone. What would you like to talk about today? Perhaps we could share how we feel about it.

Hugo and Guntar taught at the same school at the same time. They were both successful teachers. One pushed knowledge in, the other sweet-talked knowledge out. Well, the next thing was (would you believe?) Guntar was appointed the headmaster. The more liberal stance became official; in fact, it became compulsory.

We care about people. It is the humane way. It takes into account where the students are at and how they feel. You must coax the knowledge lovingly out of each student.

Hugo didn’t think much of the new directive. He complained at a staff meeting. Guntar answered:

“You call yourself a teacher? It’s conservative, right wing idiots like you who are not open to new ideas. I suggest you SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LEARN. As free-minded people we prefer to share and do things in a more open liberal way. So use your initiative and do it my way.”

These days Hugo delivers mail on foot from house to house. It’s a job. Guntar, on the other hand, has risen to new heights; he’s now a bigwig in the Department of Education. Teachers beware! You had better SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LEARN to be open and tolerant.

1612. Pretty garden flowers

There was nothing wrong with Shelley really. She was simply a goody-goody. She was one of those girls who was always proper and correct and nobody liked very much.

When the teacher gave students the task to write about their favourite thing in the garden, Shelley handed in what she thought to be the most beautiful reflection (complete with coloured-in drawings) of the poppies of Flanders Fields. She even stuck in a poem. Most of the other girls had gone in for something ordinary, like pansies. The boys, except for Gavin, went for potatoes or parsnips. But Shelley! Oh! exclaimed the teacher, what a darling! Oh it’s fabulous, Shelley! You have a wonderful gift! I have a special reward for you!

It was enough to make you sick.

You could tell. Shelley had a crush on the teacher. She was all starry-eyed and thought Mr Cvetkovic was the cat’s pyjamas. Personally, I hated Mr Cvetkovic, especially when after school he’d take me out to the school’s maintenance shed and tell me it was our little secret.

1522: Secret code

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann was frothing at the mouth. She was spitting tacks. Ms Zimmermann had spent two and a half months working out a complex, secret code. She would use it with her teenage literature class. They would decipher the code over a period of several weeks. She would help them bit by bit; a hint here and a hint there. The overriding question to answer was: What poem is hidden in the code? How exciting is that?

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann handed out the beautifully printed sheets. She had taken such care; the manuscripts were almost gilded. “This,” said Ms Zimmermann, “is the poem in code that together we shall decipher over the coming weeks.”

Willie Barros put up his hand. “The poem is obviously Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth.”

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann was shocked beyond belief. She was thunderstruck. She was gobsmacked. Months of planning and several weeks of planned pedagogy had gone down the gurgler in seconds. To make matters worse, she would have to give the upstart student a high mark for his know-all insolence. She’d never liked him. He was one of those nerdy students – a goody-two-shoes with no personality. He had pimples and absolutely no dress sense. He was one of those completely yucky adolescent boys whose half broken voice squawked up and down like a clucky chicken.

“That’s very clever of you, Willie,” said Ms Zimmermann sweetly. “How did you know that?”

Willie Barros explained the code in detail. “The answer just came to me, almost without thinking,” he said. He was particularly pleased with himself, although he didn’t say so, because Ms Zimmermann was always nasty to him, although she pretended to be kind. In fact, at times she was downright cruel. Tyrannical even. She preferred the better-looking students.

That’s why, over the last few months, Willie Barros had hacked into her computer and knew everything there was to know.