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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The nominees for the bad teacher award are...

The other day I wrote a teacher's appreciation post hoping that the good guy would get flowers. Last night when I couldn't sleep I thought about how hard it was to come up with my favorite teacher, and how much easier it would have been to just make a list of the ones who weren't all that great in my humble and biased opinion.

That's what I'm going to do now. Purely for fun! And you get to decide who gets to bite the bullet (in German we don't say "bullet" but "sour apple")



The big bore
Elementary school, 4th and 5th grade
He was a mild mannered man who liked his routine. Every single morning, he would take out his guitar, and we'd sing "Im Frühtau zu Berge wir gehen, fallera!" It roughly translates as "we are going to the mountain in the dewy morning, yay!" I can't believe it's on Youtube:


Then we'd go about our other routine: dictations, fractions, oh, and essays. That's where I got my love for writing. Not. He insisted we had to use cursive characters, but I liked block letters better. And I had a really nice block letter hand writing! So when we'd get our essays back, this is how he graded them: "content: A, hand writing: F" The game that we kept playing for the full two years was that I wrote my essays twice, once block, then cursive. Every single time. God, was I stubborn. 

Then we'd talk about roofs. For a very long time. Arched roof, flat, gabled, hipped, domed roofs. All we ever did was talking. Never would we walk around in our village and look at real houses. 


I used my time to learn the steps on how to solve the rubric's cube underneath my desk.  
I can still do it! School really does teach you valuable stuff!


The professor
High School

He taught History, German, Latin and Greek. (No, I didn't attend Latin and Greek!!) How he put up with a bunch of teenagers is beyond me. He was probably the most knowledgable teacher I'd ever meet, but he was challenged in the way of, you know, transferring that knowledge. He would mumble about the topic at hand and scribble illegible notes on the endless overhead slide. Once he scrolled back to old notes, and he couldn't find them.  There was a whole bulge of slides on the floor, and he'd still scroll. We were laughing until tears ran down our cheeks.


Us kids did our own thing. Writing notes to each other, eating candy, folding airplanes out of paper, conducting test flights,…


Then he'd snap and hand out unannounced tests. Sh** We realized we had no clue. 

I remember how I carefully looked around me. The eager beaver about four seats away was writing like a maniac. I took a chance, folded my test paper, wrote her name on it and passed it on. She'd turn her head to me - I flashed her my best smile - she'd look in the teacher's direction. He was busy and didn't care what we were doing. So she'd basically answer my test questions. Then my neighbor's, and the other neighbor's.
The teacher was not dumb, of course. He never said anything, but from now on, he'd hand out four different sets of test questions. That didn't stop us from passing on our papers. Everyone who knew anything, wrote it down on the buddy's paper. On an average test paper there'd be answers written in blue ink, black ink, nice hand writing, not so nice hand writing. I think "potpourri" would be the appropriate term. We all got the same grades. We were audacious. 



The lazy stargazer
High School

Our geography teacher must have worked hard in his first year of teaching. That's when he set up his binders, including a full script with pictures, maps, jokes and all, and also his tests. He did that in the early 70s or so. From then on, he went on REPEAT mode. And I mean it. I had friends in higher places classes who handed me down their booklets and test collections. That's how I could tell my buddies what joke the teacher would make about a certain topic. We studied the old test questions, and it worked out, it was unreal!


The good news about him was, he was passionate about astronomy. So when ever there would be a solar or lunar eclipse, or a certain planet to be visible, he'd tell us about it. I loved that part!


The ignorant drill sergeants
College

There were two of them, and they were best friends, go figure.

One, ah,  was, ahem, supposed to, ah,  teach us about, ah, bookkeeping, and it, ah, was a real, ah, pain just to try, ahem, and listen to him. 
He was our class teacher, too, but he never bothered to learn our names. 
Field trips were like military activities, we went marching. And it wasn't about the lovely sights or the team building aspect, it was about how many miles we hiked.


Once we complained and asked if we could go somewhere by bicycle instead - surprisingly he was open for it, hooray! The 30 miles trip that he chose, made us surmount three passes, and when we finally arrived, we got a 30 minutes lunch break before heading back.


The other one was our computer tech teacher. It was in the mid-80s, and we had our hopes up for some fancy stuff. This is how he started the first lesson:
"Good morning, my name is Mr H, I am going to teach you how to work with computers. Before we start, may I ask the girls to come and sit in the front row. Usually the girls don't get it anyway, but if I've got them a little closer, there's a better chance!" 

What an encouraging welcome! 
He never knew our names either. 
Exams were done on the computers, which made sense. He would give one warning "You've got 5 more minutes to finish up!" Then he would turn off the electricity. Some had never saved their work and failed the class. Not me, though. That's probably why I'm qualified to work in the IT business today?


The grumpy Ass****
College

Finally there was Mr L. He wasn't technically my teacher, but he was some kind of head coach for all sports activities. 

One day there was a basketball tournament, and he approached me when we (thought we) were done with the games and just wanted to grab a sandwich for lunch. He was a grumpy guy, most girls were afraid of him. I had gotten to know him better the winter before in ski camp. He had been giving me a hard time because I didn't follow him closely enough downhill. 

"You're the first who tells us to do this, every other ski coach wants us to keep a distance!" I dared to say. 
He gave me a dirty look. "And why would they say that?" he asked. 
"So that when someone falls, the next person won't collide with them." 
Another frown "Do I look as if I would fall?" 
"Ass***" I didn't say it, but he knew I wanted to.

Anyway, by the end of ski camp we were almost friends. 

So of course when he had to say something to my team he'd talk to me. The day of the basketball tournament he told me my team would play for 3rd place in the afternoon. 

"Round up your team" he said. "You're up in about an hour."
"I'm not sure we can. I know for a fact that two girls went home?" 
"Well, that's not my problem, YOU are the captain, you make it happen!"
"I am WHAT? When did THAT happen?"
"You are responsible cause I say so. You drag their asses here if you have to! See you later."

"Ass***"

Epilog:

I met the big bore at the school reunion in 2012 and talked about the cursive and block issues. He smiled and said "you'll be happy to hear that as of school year 2014 there'll be no more cursive drill!"

Nothing ever happened. about the professor and our cheating on the tests. Until the day a school inspector visited. And of course we'd get a test. For a minute we froze. Then we'd carefully go about our usual teamwork. Of course the inspector observed us but didn't say anything. However, before the end of the school year we got a new history teacher.

The lazy stargazer is now the father in law of one of my classmates from back then. He turned out to be a wonderful grandfather to her sons. 

The, ah, bookkeeping teacher, who was also, ah, my class teacher, made me come back to school after graduation because I requested access to my written final exams. At that time I already had a job in downtown Zurich, and I couldn't make it to school during class hours, so he had to stay longer and wasn't thrilled about it. I took my time to read my essays, go through every paper, you get the picture. Then i thanked him politely for his time and made small talk. He actually asked about my job, and I told him. Yes, a private bank, everybody speaks French. Yes, they let me handle stock exchange orders for really large amounts. No bookkeeping, though, thank God, right? Hahaha. 
With my newly acquired corporate experience I realized he was just a clerk who never got promoted!

I have never heard back of the "girls don't get it" IT guy.

And Mr L, the grumpy sports coach? Got married a couple of years after my graduation. Guess who was his wedding photographer? My Mom!!! He was looking very happy on those pictures!