Monday, July 30, 2012

He Earned Our Trust

For the last time, the doors squeaked as we all filed out of the class--this time with joy. My worst class was actually my best that evening, but not as the professor had hoped. English professors have always intrigued me--particularly those who boast their own writing, like he. For humor’s sake, I enjoyed watching Professor’s head swell to the size of the chalkboard as he showed excerpts of his thesis that earned him his proud degree to our class. Juvenilely, he relied on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test from Microsoft Word to prove that his writing was adequate. He boasted a 13.3 grade-level. When I sent my review in of the class, and of the professor, I made sure to write a witty, trashing report that leveled at a 15.5 grade-level. I made sure to include the grade at the end. It meant so much to him, I would have hated for him to not see that a terrible review of his teaching skills could triumph over his doctoral thesis on rhetorical grammar.

What I love more than professors who are blissfully unaware of their own ignorance, are those who teach a language because of their passion to discover and learn more. I suppose it can all be attributed to the first male, English teacher I had. All of the girls thought he was attractive. He had all of the features of a made-for-television illegality. We knew, on that first day of class, this man was already bound to make a great impression.

High school students are interesting creatures. By that time, some have already began the trudge into eternal apathy--and often look the part--some are living a sheltered life, some want to take on the world and most are a collectively chaotic complex of all three. But no matter who the student was when they walked into the classroom, they were different when they left. Even the boy who caused the most trouble in all of our classes, left with a newfound respect for the teacher and the subject (even if he did leave because he was expelled).

Mr. B knew how to entertain us and--get this--teach us. I will always remember Oedipus Rex and Gilgamesh due to his hilarious doodles of each character on the chalkboard. He was always the man with chalk all over his hands and pants--the one with the fun sense of humor and posters of “Bender” from Futurama on his classroom walls. Mr. B would pace the classroom and toss the chalk up in the air--and almost always get a piece caught in the lighting and have to climb on desks to get it out. He was a character, much like in all of the stories he taught us that year; but most importantly, he never tried to seem above us. Mr. B was wiser than we were, though we were all 15-years old, but he was never afraid to be human. Mr. B knew his audience and knew he could be our equal; he had earned that respect from us.

Mr. B showed us the religious symbolism and allegorical value in Lord of the Flies while teaching our same, close-minded group about the world of The Stranger. Unfortunately, most of the class hated the main character after discovering his atheistic views, but I always understood what Mr. B was trying to do that day. I will never forget it. His eyes lowered, as if to say, “But you guys love me, and I’m atheist.” But he could not just say it. He was not willing to lose what he had with our class.

Our teacher was also smart; he taught us Gilgamesh and Oedipus Rex by heart. The text was there for verification, but he already knew it. So we would put our county-issued literature books away and listen. He renewed my love for the written word. I grew up with my nose always in a book, but he showed me another section of the library I had yet ventured. Even if the challenges were goofy, Mr. B never failed to challenge us--once it meant trying to recite Caesar’s speech, in Act 3, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar, in under one minute.

For those willing to learn, Mr. B provided us with a repertoire of new vocabulary, literary analyses and a love for “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” All Professor ever gave me was a newfound distaste for Miami Vice--at least once a week he would walk in with a white suit and pink shirt. It was ghastly and hilarious, much like him.

I am going back, soon, only to wonder what the English department will throw my way this semester. Sometimes I wish Mr. B will want to flock to the south (for the love of gnats) and show up in a future literature class of mine. Aside from three literature professors I have had, Mr. B would be a tremendous step-up. But I'm fatally nostalgic, anyway.


  1. Thank you for taking me on this journey. I'm a mere high school grad, but have always had a knack for grammar, spelling, and an all around appreciation for literature and poetry (<- of which I indulge occasional, vain attempts at writing - :). I heartily concur that the best teachers are those who are truly passionate about what they teach. I'm off to check out your other stuff!

    1. Thank you. I hope you had equally amazing teachers in your time of high school.

  2. Your Mr. B reminds me so much of my favourite English teacher, and truly my favourite teacher overall.
    He was a goofball with a name to match, but was also incredibly sincere with a heart of gold.
    Our class wasn't as lucky as yours, we only had time for To Kill a Mockingbird and Twelfth Night, but he taught both in such a refreshing way. He wasn't afraid to challenge the school board's opinions, and would spend whole classes helping us discover the minute details that meant so much, even if we thought it was tedious and boring as hell at the time.
    (He too had a knack for drawing out full scenes of Twelfth Night on the chalkboard, I bet if he and Mr. B met they would have a field day.)
    But most importantly he helped me discover writing as an outlet instead of just a chore saved for essays, and finally find some confidence within myself.
    It's funny how much of an impact one class can have, isn't it?
    I should cut this short before I write a
    novel in your comments.
    Thank you for this wonderful post as well as the wave of nostalgia.

    1. I don't mind the novels. Gives me something to chew on. :) And yes. It is always wonderful to have a teacher who leaves such a strong impact. I only wish everyone could have the same kind of experience in school. It could be the difference between a kid staying or dropping out of school.


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