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!!!”
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 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.
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:
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.
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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