Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Something other than Christmas -- abit of fresh air for those of us stumbling after organizing all that holiday cheer.

Stryker's algebra teacher has brought the Matron back to the day. You see, Mr. X is a guy's guy, the kind of man who stands firm on a handshake. He fills the algebra classroom with Tale and Parable, warning away his young charges from drugs, alcohol and those damn Democrats.

Here's how he replied to an email alerting him to the fact that Stryker was home sick for the day, by parental decree.

"Mary. Stryker would never skip, lie or cheat. He's solid. His word on anything is enough for me. Thnks."

Mr. X? An avid hunter. Registered Republican. Computer and algebra geek morphed into a thirty-something teacher with two small children of his own, who clearly adores his junior high charges.

Stryker worships the man.

Mr. X was the only one of Stryker's teachers to receive a holiday present and the only teacher bold and politically incorrect enough to put in a request: "I like books. You don't know which ones. That equation equals bookstore gift cards."

Stryker does algebra equations with reverence and care. After all, Mr. X will be seeing them.

He's an incredible teacher! Who reminds the Matron of this one. . . .

When the Matron was a Very Young Miss and entering seventh grade, she suffered from a severe case of Math & Science Fear. An otherwise straight A student, she stumbled and bled in these two departments. Believed herself Less Than, incapable.

She decided to get Biology over with during summer school, the summer before officially entering 7th grade.

Now, Very Young Miss's mother saw her daughter's academic anxieties and so struck this one and only school-incentive deal. Should Very Young Miss get an A in summer Biology, her single mother (who worked two jobs so you know rolling in dough they were) would spring for the item that Young Miss desired above all else.

A Samonsite bag. They were all the rage. The girls whose fathers owned furniture stores and car dealerships each had one. Never in her wildest dreams did Young Miss think she would be so lucky.

So she vowed to get an A in Biology. Nothing would stand between her and that bag!! She knew this was her one and only chance.

Her teacher? It took about four days for Mr. Z to identify himself as a Republican, prolife, Catholic, 'anti-women's libber." If memory serves, he used those precise words. And Young Miss's Incredible Left-Wing Sensibility was already firmly established.

She hummed "I am Woman" on her way to school while he thought that breed should be, breeding.

But, complexities and complexities abound in the human spirit.

On day two, Mr. Z pronounced: "About the only thing as bad as those doctors who kill babies are girls who believe they're SO DUMB they can't kick the behinds of those doctors who do it! Dumb girls almost always are my straight A students. You boys are weenies compared to the dumb girls who will one day kick the butts of those abortion doctors and any other butts they want to kick!"

Remember, this was the 70s. Classroom conduct had a different definition.

Young Miss was terrified by and attracted to this teacher, who pontificated on things she KNEW were inappropriate for Biology 101, like homosexuality (bad) abortion (mortal sin) Catholicism (convert). But he made those cells in the fish and worm come alive for her, the fauna and flora and whatever it was, pop.

There was that Samonsite bag!

Young Miss quickly became the Wonder of Seventh Grade Biology. Not only did she earn an A in those six summer school weeks, she did not miss -- one, single, point.

And nearly everyday, Mr. Z would pace around the room, waving Young Miss's most recent assignment, with a variant of this speech: "See this, the rest of you C and Bers? A DUMB GIRL is getting a first-ever perfect score in this class. This dumb blond will kick butt one day while you're all recycling beer cans and paying for abortion doctors and Democrats to make sure baby killing is legal everywhere. This dumb girl is not only blond, but she is going to run the world. Whaddya all think about that?"

When he slapped that assignment on Young Miss's desk, every day, he beamed at her as if she had just singlehandedly eradicated abortion and liberal politics everywhere. "Atta girl," he grinned.

She loved him!

She got the bag. The perfect score. And his assessment? "You're the real deal, for a girl. You got the goods: the brain."

She loved him!

Four years later, as the Matron entered 11th grade, her mother forced her to take Chemistry. Mother was all about 'college' and 'prerequisites' and did not care one whit that Young Miss cared nothing for said discipline, planned to major in something very WORDY and knew, rightfully, that colleges were all full of "Science for Poets" classes and Chemistry was not actually something she needed.

But her mother called the school, and forced her.

Mr. Z was her teacher. Oh, so thrilled was he to see her sweet face in his classroom!

Here's how he greeted her: "Hey, the rest of you losers? This dumb girl is the best student I ever had! Perfect scores. So while you're all chasing cheerleaders or football players, she is going to be kicking your butt and changing the world."

And Young Miss slouched in her chair and said nothing.

Her first assignment? Handed in, blank. First test? She wrote her name on top and doodled. Her strategy was to sign her name to all her work and do nothing. This is exactly how the first half of the semester went until Mr. Z told her to stay after class.

Mr. Z: "You've got a perfect zero, you know."

Young Miss: "Hmmmm."

Mr. Z: "This is a pretty small town and your mom's a teacher. I know you don't want to be here."

Young Miss: "Hmmmmm."

Mr. Z: "Well, I'm not going to play your little game and let you 'hurt' your mother by getting an F on your record. The only person you'd hurt is yourself and your chances for a scholarship, which I know you need. So no F. You can sit here and do nothing all semester and I am STILL giving you a C. Sorry."

And with that, she was dismissed. Oh, she was furious. Undone! Discovered! She had indeed been planning to show her mother a thing or two with that F.

But two years later, when she got that letter saying "full scholarship" to a private, four-year college? She was grateful.

Still is.


Anonymous said...

Good thing Mr. Terrible-Problem -About-The-F didn't see this post before he wrote to you earlier! He would have discovered the magic strategy: "I'm failing in order to spite my mother."

That would have been a much better approach than "Most of my grades are B and this one should be too."

Heather said...

Great teachers who see through to the real motivation (or lack thereof).

Anonymous said...

He sounds like an amazing teacher. Did you ever tell him that?

Merry Christmas to you all!

Anonymous said...

What an amazing relationship you had.


Awesome story.

Daisy said...

Ah, an area where we differ. I enjoy science and love teaching it. Math isn't my favorite, I'd much rather teach reading, but science? To me, it's fun.

Anonymous said...

I outed myself as a liberal yesterday at my ultra-conservative aunt's home. They were... gracious about it, but couldn't believe they hadn't noticed, and were incredulous that I prefer George Clooney to Sam Elliot. :P