“School teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers.” —H. L. Mencken
In third grade, I surpassed the intellect of my teachers. It was a precarious position for a precocious youngster; schoolyard bullies have nothing on schoolmarm bullies. “Those who cannot do,” it is said in one of the shrewdest pieces of folk wisdom, “teach.” This includes those with a hankering to lord over a tin-pot kingdom of tiny tykes whilst sucking at the public teat.
Here are the five worst teachers I ever had. I doubt any of them would have been this bad if we had dismantled the Department of Education, returned to the days when an eighth-grade education sent you away reading dead languages, and forced these bums to get real jobs.
1. Third Grade
My third-grade teacher, a woman in her 40s with all the warmth and charm of a 70-year-old spinster, didn’t much care for the energetic young lad with a taste for MAD magazine.
Nothing provokes ire in the wannabe petty dictators teaching elementary school quite like a willful child with the gift of gab and a taste for undermining authority. Power struggles broke out daily, finally coming to a head the day I decided to call her out. Suppressing butterflies in my tiny stomach, I strode up to her desk as she graded papers.
“I think you treat me differently because you don’t like me.”
“Go to the bathroom,” she said without even looking up.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes. Go to the bathroom.”
I walked home.
2. Fifth and Sixth Grade
Toward the end of fifth grade, some genius decided two things: First, smart kids needed to be in the same classes as kids who could barely read. Second, everyone would be a lot better off if teachers had two years to learn how to push buttons instead of only one.
My fifth- and sixth-grade teacher had a weathered, bitter face perpetually pulled into a straight-faced grimace. I earned public shamings on a near daily basis for the crime of doing well in typing contests and trying to figure out what year a book on Congress was from.
I didn’t get the best of this one, who I’m sure is still languishing away among ten-year-olds, longing for the day when she can cash in her pension and live on the public dime without “working” for it.
One of my buddies called her a bitch in front of the whole class, but I was out with the chicken pox. For the rest of the year he was pretty much everyone’s hero.
3. Freshman English
“[T]he worst idiots, even among pedagogues, are the teachers of English.” —Mencken
Among teachers, the worst are the ones who wish they were still in high school, the ones still clinging to some small shred of childhood.
That was my freshman English teacher, the type of woman who considers herself “funky.” In all my years at public school, I can scarcely recall anyone that I butted heads with quite so hard. Hormones and hardcore punk probably didn’t help matters.
One day I finally wrote her a letter and left it on her desk. I don’t remember much of what it said, but the key part (essentially, “We’re not peers or friends, so stop acting like you’re a kid”) apparently hit home. She wouldn’t even look at me for the rest of the year.
It’s cool, though, because she got to take it out on my nephew 15 years later. Classy. Every couple of years I send her something that I’ve written with a note that’s like, “Hey, check out what one of your students has done. You totally impacted my life,” but really I just like showing her that I’m doing awesome shit with my life while she gets into petty power plays with teenagers.
4. College Economics
For some reason, I decided it would be a really good idea to take “Political Economy of Race.” I was 19 and didn’t understand that these classes were more like religious sermons than frank discussions of the matter at hand. Being the lone non-guilty white person in that class was fun, perhaps most so when I convinced my class to do our final make-work presentation on…I guess it’s called “intersectionality” or whatever?
Anyway, the point of our little skit that somehow passed for an assignment at a public university was basically that it was possible to not be racist but still hate women or gays or whomever else. I starred as the teacher, including exaggerated attempts at her mannerisms.
She was pissed. More than pissed, she was hurt. She basically had a meltdown in front of the class. It was friggin’ hilarious.
I dropped out and spent the next five years floating from one shit job to another, which was way more fun than being lectured on how my genitals and melanin levels make me bad.
5. English Lecture Survey Professor, Final Semester
“The profoundest truths of the Middle Ages are now laughed at by schoolboys. The profoundest truths of democracy will be laughed at, a few centuries hence, even by school-teachers.” —Mencken
I went back to college and graduated when I was 26. One of the last classes I ever took was a survey course all English majors had to take. It was basically a repeat of “Political Economy of Race,” which is to say it was not nearly as cool as other classes I took on Holy Grail mythos or Anglo-Saxon poetry.
Day in, day out, we were treated to a laundry list of left-wing complaints about America, white people, men, etc., from someone who probably can’t be fired for any reason from their no doubt super-demanding job indoctrinating children.
I mostly showed up late and super-high, spending the two hours (yup!) sketching. Sometimes I would set alarms on my phone like I had a phone call so everyone could hear my Wu-Tang and Rick Ross ringtones.
The last day she gave this weepy sermon about bad white men doing bad things punctuated by the refrain, “Why does history matter?”
Jesus, I don’t know. I just went to college because I hated working and wanted to sit around smoking grass all damn day.