“Great” Moments From Teaching

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When an immature teacher becomes… a teacher.

When I was a fresh college graduate, I returned home to substitute teach at my alma mater. On my first day of class, I filled in for my senior history teacher, one of my favorite teachers. In one of my classes was a student, who was better known for his baseball ability. Later, he would become a pitcher in the major leagues.  

When his class walked in, I took attendance and shared the assignment with the students. I sat at the teacher’s desk in the front of the room, the door to the class in the back. 

The class had been settled for less than a minute when a familiar sound of corduroy approaching the door, and my pre-calculus teacher stormed into class.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE??!!” she screamed, pointing at me.

“Hi Ms…can I call you Joann now?  I’ve become a teacher!”

YOU’LL NEVER WORK HERE AGAIN!!!

“…And don’t even think about asking for a bathroom pass.”

She stormed out. The students in the class were stunned

After a few moments of silence, the future professional athlete chimed in:

“That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”


I digress.

I was not a serious student in high school, and my time in the Joann’s Honors Precalculus class was Exhibit A – I earned B’s and C’s, and wound up polling second for Class Clown in my senior year.

You were in esteemed company for the title.

Much like that first day of substituting, I sat along the same wall as the entrance. But this time: three seats back, next to the enormous return vent. 

Around me were good friends of mine, all of who were talented math-wise, save one. Precalculus was second period, and on more than one occasion the group of us would review what we hadn’t studied in preparation for that day’s test. 

I can remember one particular test I “earned” a 76, while my best friend had a 97, with a comment at the top: 

we haven’t learned this yet, as this is calculus.

That friend “invented” calculus to solve a problem on this test. 

Not surprisingly, he wound up at an Ivy League school. Absolutely brilliant.

Throughout the year, Joann screamed and yelled at us, which just encouraged us to misbehave more.  As punishment, she moved the one friend across the class who wasn’t so talented in math. I’m not saying he cheated while sitting with us. But he did wind up in summer school that year. 


One morning, we heard the familiar sound of corduroys coming down the hallway… but instead of yelling at us, Joann had had enough of the morning announcements. She lamented in her harsh tone how the academic clubs were ignored, while all things sports were promoted. 

” … Why weren’t the debate team’s results on during announcements in homeroom? 
“… And how about the division-leading Math League team? 

She worked as a referee for the Math League, and spent a large part of that class bragging about our school’s math team.

That gave us an idea: Four of us got cheerleader uniforms, complete with pom-poms, and showed up at our school’s Math Team meeting right before their next match. We walked in and did a bunch of cheers in front of a stunned team and Math Team Advisor.

“Mike, Mike, he’s our man! 
If he can’t solve it, no one can!” 

“Give me an ‘M’!”
“Give me an ‘A’!”
“Give me a ‘T’!” 
“Give me an ‘H’!  What’s that spell?”

We don’t know. This is MATH TEAM!!”

The next day, the sound of corduroy came down the hall a little more quickly. When Joann arrived in class, she threw her books at her desk, turned to us with a pointed finger, and lost her mind. We laughed hysterically.

We wound up with our picture in the yearbook.

Which infuriated her even more.

Note the complete absence of any congratulatory, “Best Of Luck, Boys” signing from Ms. Joann.

Six years later, Joann still hadn’t gotten over it.

Or fourteen years, for that matter. 

When I became the head tennis coach at the school, one of my players was in her class, and I asked him to say hi to her for me.  

The next day, he came to practice, sullen. I asked what her response had been.

She told me if I say your name again to her, I’ll fail the class.

It was an inauspicious beginning.

To a long career. 

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Phylum of Alexandria
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September 13, 2022 7:16 am

Great story! Hope there is a sequel in which your Ms. Viola Swamp finally turns into Miss Nelson.

I was never a class clown, but I did have a slacker phase for most of high school. My physics teacher saw potential, and invited me to his Astronomy class for the final semester. But I wanted the easy A, so I took Photography instead.

Cut to a little while later and my Photography teacher said I was lazy! I didn’t get the A after all. Too much work, man….

Phylum of Alexandria
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September 13, 2022 7:54 am

Also, is that the real yearbook photo? If so, it’s awesome!

mt58
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mt58
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September 13, 2022 11:29 am

I had to employ a little bit of poetic license for that one. This is not an image of the actual events.

I’m certain that friend thegue’s photo archive of the events is even lovelier.

Pauly Steyreen
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Pauly Steyreen
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September 13, 2022 10:13 am

Your breasts are looking wonky there, thegue. 🤣

I can’t imagine why someone who had a bug that far up their ass would become a teacher. It should be a point of pride to be that woman’s mortal enema (or enemy).

LinkCrawford
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September 13, 2022 10:55 am

It has to be difficult to go through life with no sense of humor. 🙂

JJ Live At Leeds
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September 13, 2022 12:43 pm

Great story thegue.

A maths story of my own (and yes, over here we stick an ‘s’ on the end of it. Who knows why?)

I got worse at maths the older I got. Through primary and middle schools I was top of the class. Mental arithmetic was my forte.

But in high school it became more difficult. During GCSEs (studied for from 14 to 16) I became a solid B grade student. Still ok though so I opted to do Maths A-Level for the next 2 years. In the first year I dropped to a barely keeping up D / E grade student. I had to retake the end of the year exam to prove I was worthy of going onto the 2nd year.

We’d been split into two groups with everyone that was also doing Physics in one group; it worked out that they were all pretty good at maths, and the rest of us in another; turned out we were all pretty bad at it.

Our course was split into Pure and Applied maths with different teachers for each. Around 3 months before the final exams we did mock exams – basically a past paper to judge where you were at. I came out knowing there wasn’t a chance in hell I could pass.

Come the lesson where Mr Snelling gave us our mock results turns out there wasn’t a chance in hell any of us would pass. He went through us in alphabetical order announcing our results so all could hear, probably to shame us. I got 17%. The third highest score in a class of 9. When you’re that bad you may as well take pride in it.

Unfortunately for Mr Snelling the last name to read out was student W (we’ll leave him anonymous). He brought it on himself, gave him a big build up being a smart arse, thought in his anger he was being clever and then announced that worst of the lot achieving the score of 1% was W.

After the battering we’d all taken it was too much. I think Mr Snelling was looking for submissive contrition but what he got was hysterical laughter from every one of us. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so long and so hard. Made all the funnier by the fact we definitely should not be laughing. Mr Snelling its fair to say went apeshit, we’d never heard him shout before but he really went for it that morning. Told us there was nothing funny about ruining our lives, we had no self respect and on and on.

It just made it funnier. We tried to hold it together while he ranted on but someone would start giggling again and set the rest of us off. It got too much for Mr S and he stormed out slamming the door behind him. Victory to the idiots and cue the laughter ramping up another notch.

W was laughing as hard as the rest of us but calmed himself enough to attempt to be serious saying, ‘I don’t know why you all think its so funny, this is my life we’re talking about.’ Obviously we all found that hilarious, him included. There was then the obvious ribbing as to how do you even score 1%? Was it for spelling his name correctly? What did he do for the 3 hours of the exam as he sure wasn’t answering the questions?

All of us except W were allowed to take the final exam. I’d already decided that there was no way I could redeem myself, it was a lost cause so I took the exam in the hope I got really lucky and scraped an E while concentrating on my other subjects. Came out with a U as in Ungraded which suggests I didn’t improve on my 17%. I got my place at university thanks to my other subjects so it worked out and I still take a weird pride in doing that badly. W took a different path and had done pretty well for himself least i heard. I can empathise with Joann then, if W had turned up as a teacher at our school there’s no telling how Mr Snelling would have reacted.

DanceFever
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September 13, 2022 12:54 pm

Hooray! The heart button is working!
Beautiful story, thegue.
One thing you definitely have to have as a teacher is a sense of humor. Perhaps they forgot to give Ms. Joann one when they gave her the certificate.
My first year in teaching, the room I was given was in the basement of the auditorium accessible by two sets of stairs. As I was taking roll, we heard thump, thump, thumps as someone was bounding down the stairs, then S strolled in the room and said “What’s up, Dude?” Without missing a beat, I replied “That’s Coach Dude to you, Mr. S!”
The class roared with laughter and I had no major problems the rest of the semester.

cappiethedog
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September 13, 2022 2:00 pm

Did Joann use the term “mathlete” at any time during her diatribe?

“…the sound of corduroys,” really, laugh-out-loud funny.

That cheer. You provided me with a potential backstory as to why Lindsay Weir left the math team. This would make Lindsay quit.

Joann’s sense of humor materialized over time. Your former teacher probably thinks about it, on average, 1-3 times a day, unbidden.

What your tennis student told you could be interpreted two ways. I think she’s being sardonic. Down deep inside, you were one her favorites.

Great stuff, thegue.

dutchg8r
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September 13, 2022 4:47 pm

Oh, so it was you hooligans Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri based their cheerleaders on??!! 😉

Was I the only one imagining thegue’s tale played out as Mr Hand finding out Spicoli is a sub teacher???

cstolliver
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September 13, 2022 7:44 pm

This was awesome, thegue. I can’t believe the two of you have worked together on the faculty so long and this is still an issue for her, so I’ll buy into cappie’s theory about her reply being sardonic rather than straight up serious.

Aaron3000
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September 13, 2022 10:17 pm

From this day forward, the name “Joann” will always be linked in my mind with “corduroy”. Love it.

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