Thursday, March 13, 2014

Do You Ever Have Old Teachers Emerge From the Mists of Time?

The ringtone emanating from the phone in my pocket alerted me that my junior high schooler was calling. I glanced at the clock and saw that school had just let out.

On a side note: I never used to care about ringtones because I always relied on the vibrate feature. But that was back when I geekily wore my phone in a plastic holster attached to my belt, a setup that allowed the phone to vibrate right against my hip bone. Once I made the transition to pocketing my phone I found that I missed too many calls unless the phone both vibrated and rang. So now I have obnoxious ringtones. Loud ones. Because I otherwise won't hear the darn phone if there's much ambient noise.

On a side side note: Speaking of clocks, does anyone else have kids that are old enough but that still don't know how to read analog clocks despite your best efforts to teach them? Kids that don't know what "a quarter after" or "a quarter to" means? I know that digital clocks continue to proliferate, but there are still plenty of analog clocks around.

Me (hearing a lot of junior high hallway noise in the background): Hi.

Child: Hi, Dad! I had a substitute teacher today. Did you have a math teacher named Mr. X [name redacted] when you were my age?

Me: Uh ... yeah.

I doubt my child could sense the immense mixture of feelings that washed over me during that ellipsis.
  • Is that man still alive? And still substitute teaching?! How old could he be? Or how young was he when I was in junior high? For all I know he might have been fresh out of college back then. To my 13-year-old self anybody that was old enough to be a teacher was simply ancient. 25 or 95; what's the diff?
  • When I was a kid I thought of teachers kind of like school equipment that was switched off after we left school and that somebody switched back on before we arrived the next day. I couldn't fathom that they actually had regular lives complete with daily concerns like finances and family. Although I can see the regular lives of teachers I know nowadays, it still somehow amazes me that anyone that was one of my teachers actually existed outside of the school context. That irrational kid part of me wonders if Mr. X has just been stuck in the back of some storage room at the school all these years.
  • Should I tell my child how much this man intimidated girls in my class? He was kind of a handsome guy and the girls liked him, but only from a distance. Many wouldn't even approach his desk without taking friends along for protection. Given half a chance, Mr. X would jauntily snap any girl's bra strap, tweak her bottom, and/or make comments about her developing feminine anatomy. While these behaviors could bring very serious consequences nowadays, administrators treated those girls' complaints very lightly back then. Mr. X must have learned to curb that behavior since then. Maybe they installed an update to his programming.
  • Math! Why did it have to be math? (I'm thinking of an Indiana Jones analogy here.) I hated math. (So it's kind of odd that I went into accounting and ended up programming computers and writing algorithms.) The desktops in the math classrooms at our junior high school were emblazoned with a graph grid, a large circle, and various measurement aids. I remember Mr. X working out problems on the overhead projector as I glanced back and forth between the screen and the design on my desk without the slightest comprehension of what he was explaining. Sometimes I would slightly cross my eyes while staring at the grid on my desktop until the grid appeared to take on a three dimensional appearance. All the while Mr. X was talking, but my brain perceived his vocalizations pretty much like what you hear when an adult talks on a Charlie Brown cartoon.
  • On the other hand, I ran into some people a few years ago that talked about how much they admired Mr. X and talked about some great things he had done in the community where he lived. Could it be that my judgment is rather skewed by looking through my 13-year-old eyes?
  • Come on! Was it really necessary to dredge up this memory? Why is it that despite the intervening decades, part of me is still a 13-year-old kid staring dumbly at a sheet of junior high math problems?

Child: He said that you and some of my uncles were students of his.

Me (masking my emotions): That's true.

Child: He said to tell you hi.

Me (monotone): That's cool.

Child: Well, see ya Dad. I gotta go.

Me (glad that the conversation is finished): See ya later.

No comments: