Good Teacher, Bad Teacher
I’ve had a few, like everyone else.
Bad teacher was Miss Cauble in the third grade. She was the worst teacher I’ve ever encountered. She left a lasting impression and not a good one. While teaching multiplication she would say ‘Two Times Two.’ I was learning to tell time and kept looking at the clock, confused. If she had said multiply, then my 3rd grade mind would have eventually understood. But she used two different terms and the ADD dyslexic child could not understand. So instead of explaining it right she called me stupid and put me in a room between classrooms. She yelled at me (though teaching was HER job) called me dumb and actually spanked me when I didn’t understand her points. I was scared. What had I done to make her angry and talk to me this way? The entire class saw it, and when I was released from my prison, I refused to go back. I hid behind the door and just cried, feeling and thinking I was stupid. A boy, David Davenport found me behind the door, comforted me and told me that she was wrong. He was my hero but I was so ashamed that I walked home in tears. Never told my parents either since I thought I’d be blamed and the teacher was right. Thirty years later my father heard the story and nearly cried. He was furious. That was a comfort but I struggled through school and even more because I had that black cloud from one teacher.
For years it hung over me, so when you think what you say doesn’t impact a child, you are dead wrong. To this day, I wish the woman ill. And I love the 5th grader, David Davenport for just being my hero of the moment.
That said, the great teachers… there were two. Mr. Bemiss my high school history teacher. He was the type that injected personal story of the players in history into learning and that made me want to know the people of history, not just the facts. We played games, and once in a while he dressed the part of a historical character. To this day, history is my first love.
The other was my English Lit teacher, Mrs. Striker (not sure of that name, folks, I’m old) but she managed to make Dante’s Inferno fun and exciting. Her own love of English Lit was hard to ignore and like Mr. Bemiss, she injected the life of the writers into her lessons and the motivation behind their written words. I was already a closet Stephen King fan, in the closet because I didn’t think my strict Catholic parents would like their child reading about demons and vampires. I hide the books. Yet Mrs. Striker opened another door to historical documentary. I know, a real snoozer, right?
In the beginning of the year she assigned a term paper on a historical character and I chose Vlad Teppes, Count Dracul. Yes, that one. I was the only student who turned the paper in on time and I received an A minus. The minus because the last sentences were my opinion and this was a study, no personal opinions allowed. I can look back and see my interest in creating the world of Vlad Teppes for the reader, my teacher. As a student, I made A’s in three classes, Art, History and English Lit. I squeaked through math and science but its history and English lit that let me graduate. I swear.
And yes, that Miss Cauble crap hung over me even then. I feel I would have done better in school without her words ringing in my ears all the time.
Not unlike my writing career, I was stunned someone wanted to read something I wrote and then terrified they’d find out I wasn’t smart enough to be a real writer. This is after writing non-fiction for three international magazines, two newspapers, and publishing fifteen books! To this day I like surrounding myself with people who I feel are smarter than me. I love learning.
So for those two teachers who enlightened me, thank you. I’m forever grateful for your inspiration. Your direction sent me down this writer path.
For Miss Cauble, I hope you’re suffering in school hell because I’m certain I wasn’t the only little kid you traumatized for life.